Copyright © 1997 AFLM
May/June, 1997 Volume XII Number 6 - IN THE NATION
Abortion promoter admits lying about D & X
New York, NY -- A prominent supporter of abortion rights says he "lied through my teeth" when he said that so-called partial-birth abortions -- called D&X -- were performed rarely, and only to save the mother's life or to abort malformed fetuses.
Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers (NCAP) in Alexandria, Virginia and former director of National Abortion Federation (NAF), a coalition of 200 independently owned clinics, made the admission in an article to be published March 3 in Medical News, an American Medical Association publication.
Fitzsimmons, who had insisted the procedure was rare in a November 1995 interview on the ABC show Nightline, now says abortion opponents are right when they say the procedure, D&X, is common.
He said that in the vast majority of cases, the procedure is formed on a healthy mother who is five months pregnant with a healthy baby.
"The abortion rights folks know it, the anti-abortion folks know it, and so, probably, does everyone else," he said.
He said he had lied because he feared the truth would damage the cause of abortion rights, but now he is convinced that the debate on the issue must be based on the truth.
"This put everyone in the press in a dilemma," said Andrew Burnett, publisher of Life Advocate magazine. "Do they believe him now when he says he lied, or believe he's lying now to help 'the cause,' or do they believe him in the future when he says he's telling the truth?"
"I think what he's done [the admission] is a public service," says Stanley Renshon, who teaches political psychology at City University of New York. But, to those tempted to write off the misstatements as predictable political behavior, he appeals for a less jaded attitude.
"In the public arena this is actually poison," said Renshon, who writes about "lying for justice" in an upcoming book. "A lot of people think a nip here and a tuck there with the truth isn't all that bad. Once they do that on a regular basis it becomes harder and harder to distinguish the means from the end. Deception is a slippery slope."
The procedure involves extracting an unborn baby through the birth canal, feet first, and then suctioning out the brain. The procedure was first presented by its developer, abortionist Martin Haskell, as a September 1992 national meeting of the NAF, the group Fitzsimmons directed at the time. The first public revelation of the gruesome procedure was detailed in the February 1993 issue of Life Advocate magazine. Congress passed a law to ban the procedure, which opponents say borders on infanticide, but President Clinton vetoed the law and Congress failed to override the veto.
In explaining his veto, Clinton said the procedure was used on "a few hundred women every year" whose fetuses are "about to be born with terrible deformities" _ a similar line to that of Fitzsimmons.
Fitzsimmons' article is not the first to suggest that abortion rights supporters had understated the frequency of the procedure.
A report in The Record of Hackensack, New Jersey, last September sparked controversy when it reported that doctors at just one clinic in suburban Englewood estimated using the controversial procedure in about half of the 3,000 abortions they perform each year on women in their 20th to 24th weeks of pregnancy. A normal pregnancy is about 40 weeks.
The Record report bolstered claims by abortionist opponents that the procedure is used by women who simply make a late decision to terminate their pregnancy, without compelling medical reasons.
Now, with a new attempt in Congress to ban the procedure, pro-abortion advocates are going before Congress to try to repair credibility tattered after Fitzsimmons admitted lying about how often and under what circumstances a D&X is performed. Leading abortion rights advocates went before a joint meeting of two House and Senate committees trying to divert attention away from numbers and Ron Fitzsimmons.
Advocates are focusing on a proposed ban they say would strip women of access to a legitimate medical treatment and, at the same time, directly threaten abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade.
Kate Michelman, head of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), says that "whether the number of women whose doctors recommend this procedure is five, five hundred, or five thousand a year, each and every one of these numbers represents the real life of an individual woman."
Abortion opponents contend the pro-choice movement is guilty of "a pattern of dissemblance and deception" about a procedure they say verges on murder.