In Arkansas, Bill Banning Abortion Procedures Is No Fantasy


Arkansas bans "partial birth" abortion, and pregnant women and their physicians are left to guess which safe surgical abortion techniques HB 1113 bans.

In order to enact the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act" (HB 1113),
a bill banning "something to do with abortion," the Arkansas General Assembly declared an emergency and proclaimed the
passage of the bill immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.

On Tuesday, February 10th, 2009, HB 1113 cleared a state House of Representatives committee after a dazzling display of third world potentate tactics from the bill’s sponsors, including the invocation of a "state of emergency" that required the Governor to take action on it or the bill would become law by default.  On February 19, 2009, the state Senate passed HB 1113 by a vote of 30-3 vote. And last Friday, February 20th, Gov. Mike Beebe signed the bill into law.  The bill provides no definition for the procedures it is banning and contains penalties as high as 6 years in jail for physicians performing the unidentified procedure.

Any and all Arkansas politicians who voted for HB 1113 are in dereliction of duty and
should be prosecuted for criminal incompetence. Here are but three
reasons why.

One: The Emergency Which Dare Not Speak Its Name

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a bit of difference between a scary ghost story told around the
campfire and a medical procedure that’s just been declared a scary
public threat by politicians.  One of these two requires a basis in reality.

figure out what exactly Arkansas politicians deem an imminent threat to public
peace, health, and safety you have to divine the medical meaning, if
any, behind the propaganda term "partial-birth abortion" and its
whimsical description found in HB 1113.

propaganda might be a fun intellectual exercise for politicians but
it’s an incompetent way to set the medical standard of care or decide
if physicians are guilty of a felony and get to spend up to 6 years in

Unfortunately, Arkansas politicians can’t be bothered to
take their job seriously. So we, together with the pregnant women whose
health will be adversely affected by this bill, their families, and their physicians are left to guess exactly which surgical abortion technique HB 1113 bans.

Briefly, we have three possibilities:

Dilatation and Curettage (D&C): In this procedure, usually performed before 14 weeks estimated gestational age (an early term abortion),
first the cervix is dilated, then the pregnancy is evacuated by mechanically
either by scraping out the contents (sharp curettage), vacuum aspiration (suction
curettage), or both. 

Dilatation and Evacuation (D&E):
Usually performed after 16 weeks gestational age, a D&E involves dilation of the cervix, then mechanical destruction and evacuation of
fetal parts, followed by large-bore vacuum curettage.

Intact D&E or Dilatation and Extraction (D&X):
technique is usually indicated after 20 weeks and is similar to a D&E, except, and this is the key difference, an intact
extraction of part of the fetus takes place over the cervix. These procedures  are conducted in the case of either a maternal or fetal indication, including for women with uterine scarring or preeclampsia, or for fetal anomalies such as hydrocephaly.

Q: So, which one of these three distinct techniques is banned under HB 1113? 

A: Who knows?

The legislation itself does not provide definitive guidance.  For example, in its definition of "partial-birth" abortion, the legislation says, "in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the female." This scenario can happen in an induced abortion, a D&E, or a D&X.  So, a "partial-birth" abortion is, what?

Or its fantasy description of an abortion procedure – "the
physician blindly forcing a sharp instrument into the base of the
unborn child’s skull while he or she is lodged in the birth canal."

understand the problems with the above paragraph you need to know that
with termination, as opposed to term labor, you don’t achieve a fully
dilated and effaced (thinned out) cervix.  A partially dilated and
effaced cervix will not accommodate the fetal skull, and this is why
you have to reduce it. A trapped head is a true emergency. The cervix
has large blood vessels and could tear leading to catastrophic bleeding.

three problems. One, you collapse the skull in order to effect
delivery, not to kill the fetus (or, for that matter, because you like
poking sharp instruments into fetal skulls). The state of the fetus —
intact or dismembered — is not the deciding factor. If it were,
there’d be no need to reduce the skull of a dismembered fetus. Two, the
maneuver is not blind, it’s guided. And
three, you reduce the size of the skull in utero, in order to facilitate passage through the cervix, not in the vaginal canal.

to Arkansas politicians: Just because you are not required to be
responsible or competent when enacting legislation doesn’t mean the
same applies to physicians taking care of patients.

line, it’s impossible to tell from reading HB 1113 what exactly it
bans. The most you can say is that it’s something to do with the
medical procedure of abortion.  This level of ignorance and sloppiness
is irresponsible when dealing with medical matters.

Two: The Phantom Emergency

you’re going to yell fire in a crowded theater you better make sure
there’s actually a fire. And if you’re going to declare something to do
with a medical procedure an imminent threat to the citizens of your
state you better make sure you have evidence that the threat actually

State Rep. Dawn Creekmore (D) who sponsored HB 1113 said she is worried that Congress might overturn a 2003 federal law
that also bans something to do with abortion. Fretting over future
fantasy Congressional actions is not evidence that there’s a public

Neither is a lack of information. According to Martha
Adcock, an attorney for the Family Council, which assisted Creekmore in
writing the bill, "no information is available on whether any of the
4,844 abortions performed in the state in 2007 would have been covered
under the bill."

Note to Arkansas politicians: The proper
response to not having any information on whether a made-up medical
procedure is performed in your state is the exact opposite of declaring
a public peace, health, and safety emergency and enacting a bill
banning the procedure.

And since Ms. Adcock mentioned the 2007 Arkansas abortion data, let’s clarify something.  Her power to awe with propaganda is restricted to Arkansas politicians, and doesn’t extend to anyone who values reality. 

we look at the available data, excluding the one case with an unknown estimated gestational age, there were 4,698 surgical abortions in Arkansas in 2007.  Of these, 4,239, roughly ninety percent, were performed between 7 and 14 weeks estimated gestational age and involved a D&C.  Another
459, or about 10 percent, were performed between 15 weeks to 20 weeks estimated gestational age and involved a D&E.

No procedures were performed for 21+ weeks. More importantly, no

Unlike Ms. Adcock and her Family Council outfit, we
might not have the power to draft legislation, but we are blessed with
the "look at data and interpret" special power. We can observe that federal law already bans the procedure that supposedly puts Arkansas into a state of emergency.  And we realize that if your bill bans a procedure done for an estimated gestational age of 20 weeks or more and your statistics show that there were no abortions done more than 20 weeks, that tells you
that your legislation bans a procedure not done in your state.

Bottom line,
based on their actions, it’s clear that Arkansas politicians don’t take
their jobs, not to mention their constituents, seriously.

Should any of the bill’s sponsors wish to prove otherwise, all they have to do is to:

1) Have Rep. Dawn Creekmore define the banned procedure and explain why
it, unlike its "delicate" alternatives — a D&E (dismemberment), a
torn cervix, the major abdominal surgery of a Cesarean section — is a brutal procedure.

2) Show that any D&Xs were performed in Arkansas in 2007 to begin with. [Hint: D&Xs are illegal under federal law.]

And for extra credit:

3) Justify why, when it comes to pregnant patients, being on the brink of
death is a prerequisite for being permitted access to proper medical

4) Explain why [a] female upon whom a partial-birth abortion is performed is exempt from prosecution but a pregnant Ob/Gyn who performs the abortion is not.

that last point. According to HB 1113, all involved with something to
do with the medical procedure of abortion — physicians and lay people
alike — are considered criminals, except for the pregnant women
undergoing the procedure, by virtue of the state of their uterine

So, when a pregnant Ob/Gyn performs whatever it is
that HB1113 bans, based on the state of her uterine lining that Ob/Gyn
should not be held responsible for her actions. Yet HB 1113 contains no
such exemption. Why not?

Three: The Lying Liars and the Lies They Tell

medicine, unlike politics, lies have consequences. As a physician, if
you lie to your patients you are endangering their health and you are
guilty of malpractice, and deservedly so. You should be allowed
nowhere near those who entrust their health to you.

for the people of Arkansas, as a politician you get to lie to people
unencumbered by a concern for the patients’ health or, for that
matter, by professionalism or the truth.

Here’s what Arkansas
politicians say, on the official legislative record mind you, are the
risks associated with something to do with the medical procedure of

found and determined by the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas
that partial-birth abortion poses serious risks to the health of a
female undergoing the procedure; that those risks include, among other
things: an increase in a female’s risk of suffering from cervical
incompetence, a result of cervical dilation making it difficult or
impossible for a female to successfully carry a subsequent pregnancy to
term; an increased risk of uterine rupture, abruption, amniotic fluid
embolus, and trauma to the uterus as a result of converting the child
to a footling breech position and a risk of lacerations and secondary
hemorrhaging due to the physician blindly forcing a sharp instrument
into the base of the unborn child’s skull while he or she is lodged in
the birth canal, an act which could result in severe bleeding, brings
with it the threat of shock, and could ultimately result in maternal

Since the medical literature is silent
on the risks of fantasy procedures, let’s assume for the sake of the
discussion that "partial-birth" abortion refers to D&X (intact
D&E). Here’s the actual information about D&X from the literature, medical experts, and medical professionals under oath:

court concluded, for example, that "[e]xperts for both sides labeled .
. . inaccurate" Congress’s finding that intact removal increases the
risk of uterine rupture, abruption, amniotic fluid embolus, and trauma
to the uterus. Similarly, the trial court found that experts for both
sides agreed that intact D&E "does not involve the capricious and
erratic use of instruments," thus undercutting Congress’s finding that
the procedure poses an increased risk of maternal laceration and

Evidence presented at the New York trial
also contradicted Congress’s finding that removing the fetus intact in
a D&E increases a woman’s risk of cervical incompetence, which can
lead to pre-term birth in subsequent pregnancies…

But wait, there’s more.

only does the medical evidence refute politicians’ "finding" that
D&X (D&E with intact removal) presents serious increased risks
to women, it actually points to the safety advantages of the procedure:

New York trial record supports the safety advantages of intact D&E
based on three demonstrated facts: (1) D&Es of all variations have
safety advantages over induction abortions, (2) D&Es with intact
removal have safety advantages over D&Es with dismemberment, and
(3) these safety advantages are especially important for women who are
particularly vulnerable to catastrophic complications by virtue of
their already compromised medical states.

line: If you’re an Arkansas politician, you should know that coming up
with a fantasy medical risk profile won’t mask the fact that you’re so
incompetent you have to rely on the kindness of strangers to divine the
exact nature of the threat you’re alleging. 

So there you have it, three reasons why the Arkansas politicians who enacted HB 1113 are in dereliction of duty: 1) they don’t know what medical procedure they’re banning, 2) they have no data to back up their claims, and, 3) they try to pass off lies as legitimate medical information.

get me wrong, there are a lot more problems with HB 1113 than the ones
I just mentioned. For example, as a patient your confidentiality is not
guaranteed. The bill says it’s irrelevant if you do not consent to the
disclosure of your medical information. It’s the grown-ups (by
definition, everybody but you and your physician) who get to make these

My point is that there needs to be a basic
competence requirement for any politician with totalitarian
inclinations who wants to play doctor and ban safe and effective
medical procedures.

Otherwise we keep ending up with
legislation like HB 1113 — where the politicians’ personal belief that
everything to do with the female reproductive system is scary and quite
off-putting, and pregnant patients are enough to declare a state of emergency.

As a
politician you have a duty to your employers, the taxpayers, to conduct
yourself and their business in a professional manner. Even when
legislating matters as trivial as medical care for pregnant patients.

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