In today’s USA Today there was an article about partial birth abortion titled “ ‘Partial-birth’ cases test abortion rights’ limits”. Several things struck me about this article.First, I was surprised at both the candor and callousness with which the D&X (partial birth abortion) method of abortion was described: “The methods involve dilating a woman’s cervix to allow most of the fetus to emerge into the vagina intact, rather than dismembering the fetus in the uterus by using forceps and other instruments. In the intact method, a doctor then suctions out the fetus’ brain to collapse the head and allow delivery.” One would think the author was describing something as mundane as demolishing a house.

Second, I was astonished at the logical reasoning of the U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement. Clement will be arguing on behalf of the U.S. government to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 2003. According to the article Clement claims the procedure is “gruesome” and “resembles infanticide.” I agree, and I support his moral outrage at the practice. But Clement doesn’t stop there. According to the author “Clement has said Congress’ ban is not unconstitutional because there are alternative methods of second-trimester abortions that would remain legal. Those include a standard D&E procedure in which a doctor dismembers the fetus in the uterus, and another method known as ‘induction,’ in which a woman is given drugs that cause her to go into labor and deliver the fetus.”

I am at a loss to understand this reasoning. How is it any less gruesome to dismember the baby in the womb and evacuate it, than it is to partially extract it intact, and then proceed to kill it? One seems just as bad as the other. The issue is not how close the fetus comes to breathing air, but the killing of a human life. Maybe Clement is arguing this way for legally strategic reasons, rather than for logical reasons. I don’t know.