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June 1st, 2009
06:00 PM ET

A personal perspective on late-term abortion

Editor's Note: Tune in to hear more about late-term abortion and the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Dr. George Tiller was one of the few U.S. physicians who performed late-term abortions.
Dr. George Tiller was one of the few U.S. physicians who performed late-term abortions.

Lynda Waddington
For the Iowa Independent

Dear Sen. Barack Obama,

You recently spoke with Cameron Strang, publisher of Relevant magazine. During that interview, Strang asked if you could clarify your position on “third-trimester and partial-birth abortion,” and you replied:

“…I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.”

Your response leads me to believe that you’ve either never had a one-on-one discussion with a woman who has had a late-term abortion, or that you’ve been too uncomfortable to ask such a woman difficult questions concerning not only the procedure but what led her to make that choice. Because a president needs to be given as much first-hand knowledge as possible as he develops policy, I’d like to help remedy this deficiency.

Thirteen years ago I had a late term abortion.

That’s the concise sentence I use when I don’t want to talk about what really happened. It takes all the emotion, all the family turmoil, all the medical terminology and all the grief, and packages it nice and neat. The listener is momentarily left speechless — long enough for me to walk away. Few follow as I retreat because only a select few really want to get beyond the politically charged debate that’s fueled by marketing consultant jargon such as “partial-birth abortion.”

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soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Leeny

    Pamela – Thank you! I just made the same comment a while ago. "Pro-lifers" need to do something good with their energies, like foster a child, instead of harrassing Planned Parenthood patients or doctors. Or killing them. Sorry, but God didn't name anybody on this planet as judge, jury and executioner.

    I read Lynda's letter, and I have tears in my eyes. How anyone could presume to tell her that what she did was murder needs to have their head examined. I've seen anencephaly in rat fetuses when I worked in a lab. Trust me, you don't want to see a human fetus with the same condtion. There is absolutely no way anything can live in that condition. What a horrible decision to have to make, and thank God we have that choice.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  2. GF, Los Angeles

    @ Tim in Lynda's case once the baby was born it would die. Why put Lynda through the horrible experience of carrying a child to term and going through the labor knowing it would die once it's outside of the womb? The emotional pain she and many other women go through you may never understand but I do which is why I fully support abortion.

    June 2, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  3. Glester

    It still all comes down to choice. If the Constitution was written by emotion alone the United States would not exist. Emotion is a momentary expression of feelings not a law or procedure each individual experiences by their own personality, no laws will dictate this emotion.

    The choice YOU make is something YOU will deal with by your own personality there are no standards or laws for this act.

    Be wise but don't blame others. Life is a choice, we must be accountable only to ourselves and it's value when it's our body our life.

    June 2, 2009 at 10:20 am |
  4. Melissa

    Unfortunately, you can tell how many who replied to this didn't bother to actually research what she was talking about. If they did, they'd never support such a thing.

    June 2, 2009 at 10:11 am |
  5. Pamela

    I"m very sorry about Dr. Tiller. I agree with Helen and I add that a fetus may have a heart beat but so does a brain dead patient who survives on life support. a baby isn't truly alive until it takes its on breathe out of the womb. The prolife groups who are so against abortion need to fight to adopted children instead of forming pickett lines against women who have the right to abort. Really... it's nobody's concern but God and the individual. Before they can judge someone else take a look into your own past. Some of your teenager children probably had an abortion without your knowledge.

    June 2, 2009 at 6:21 am |
  6. J.V.Hodgson

    An extremely moving and poignant letter which clearly indicates the absolute nonsense of trying to Legisalate or pass court decisions on these matters.
    They are not needed or desirable irrespective of the lateness of term.
    The decision is the mothers and families, and the facilties to respect their wishes and no one else.
    I have faced a similar but different cause for such decsion and medically and personally it is impossible to legislate satisfactorily.
    Regardless of religious persuasion such religiously motivated people have no right to interfere with my decision.
    By the way my faiths religious leaders policy is 100 % against Abortion for any reason at any time
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    June 2, 2009 at 6:13 am |
  7. Helen Tucker

    I would love to hear the people who call themselves Pro Choice explain or take action regarding the 16,000 children who die of hunger each day. Is it better to let one live and starve to death? Quit fighting a woman's right to choose and save these hungry children. Do something you can win!

    963 million people across the world are hungry. 1

    Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes–one child every five seconds.

    June 1, 2009 at 7:11 pm |
  8. Susan (Anaheim, CA)

    Lynda, thank you for having the courage to share such a painful experience with those of us who have not walked in your shoes. My deepest sympathy for your loss.

    I wish that more people had the courage to share what lies behind so many choices that women are forced to make. I have always believed that every circumstance is different and that the right to choose belongs to those most affected by the choice to have an abortion. I personally believe that very few women make the choice lightly (or as a means of "birth control".

    My heart goes out to you and all the other women who have been in your position.

    June 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  9. Carla Capone

    I would hope that no woman or physician would enter lightly into a late-term abortion. I can't imagine how difficult it would be for anyone to make this decision under any circumstances. One thing I know for sure is that killing the people who perform these services is wrong. The bible says "Thou shalt not kill" there isn't an aditional clause "about the greater good". I wonder where these crazy people get their information from. Whatever your religeous beliefs are – judgement is always reserved for a high power.

    June 1, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  10. Tim Gibson

    For myself personally, and myself only, I cannot wrap myself around the idea of full term being compared to life support. While it is true in a sense of the word, the mother is the ultimate life support system for any unborn child, from conception to delivery or even termination. Yet it is natural and right in my opinion.

    Even if a child is born with severe defects, a life ended is when it has been in the world and ends. There are no machines or artificial lines in the womb, it is what it is.

    While I am not an advocate of my body my choice, I feel that choice was made when the opportunity for conception came to be and that it should only be ended when nature calls it to end. When a person removes a relatiive, one who was dead without modern invasion medical decisions is places on life support in the hopes of survival it is in the hope of survival. It is artifical means that are removed when the choice to stop the support system, not human means, not natural means.

    Yes, it is a personal choice just as my words are personal words regarding personal choice. I just do not understand abortion.

    June 1, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  11. Sabina Cragg

    I faced a similar situation 5 years ago when I found out my daughter had spina bifida. I was at 20 weeks when it happened. If you could detect defects earlier on in the pregnancy, late term abortions would be obsolete. Unfortunately, that isn't the case and sometimes these abortions need to be performed.

    June 1, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  12. Melissa

    I simply have to post again, sorry. What I saw when I researched this is probably going to give me nightmares for days.

    I wish I could hug you.

    June 1, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  13. Melissa

    My god. I googled Anencephaly and it almost made me sick to my stomach. Not the best way to be when you're at work.

    I feel so bad for you. And I feel so bad for any... thing... born that way. Abortion is better. Death is better.

    Horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. Its like the movies you watch with the really horrific nightmarish scenes.

    I didn't even know such a thing was possible but I guess I'm not surprised.

    This would be a fantastic reason why abortion should be allowed and even insisted upon in this terrible extreme case.

    And THIS is what the pro-lifers like to ignore because the truth is inconvenient.

    June 1, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  14. Tommy Watson

    What a difficult story to read. I could not even imagine the courage and willpower it took to write. It seems that in this day we are all so quick to pass judgment based on a sound bite of information and our own moral code (usually dictated to us by religious leaders). This story just proves, when humanity is involved there are no absolutes.

    June 1, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  15. GF, Los Angeles

    Lynda I'm sorry for the loss of your child. Thank you so much for putting a "face" to those who choose abortion. It's not an easy decision for anybody who does it no matter the circumstance of why it's done. I personally cannot imagine telling someone not to have an abortion whether the child is healthy or not. For the few who abuse it as a form of birth control, it's unfair to punish those who do not but have reasons such as yours to choose that option and I'm glad that option was available to you.

    June 1, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  16. Lisa in CA

    Thank you, Ms. Waddington, for sharing this heartbreak with us.

    I have no doubt that many will say "but this is the exception"; yet it is just for the "exceptions" that it is imperative government remain out of our private lives. A Congressman or President who lives a thousand miles away and has never met us, let alone a bureaucracy that is only interested in financial expense, has absolutely no business making a decision so intensly personal and private for us.

    And yet, they continue to insist they should have that right. But where are they to help pick up the pieces and give support after the fact?

    June 1, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  17. Julie

    Lynda,

    I am very sorry for your loss.

    I know a woman who chose to end a pregnancy because the baby would have been born severely disabled without a possibility of living any semblance of normal life. I know a second woman who chose to bring to term a baby who lacked vital organs. This child died in her arms shortly after birth. I know a third woman who suffered a molar pregnancy, one in which the baby does not develop properly, becomes a tumor, and must be removed or the mother will die. In these "no-win" situations, each woman made the choice that was appropriate for themselves and their family.

    I myself has suffered the loss of 5 pregnancies without a live birth. To add insult to injury, the medical community uses the term "abortion" to describe these miscarriages.

    If a pregnant woman wants an abortion solely because the pregnancy is inconvenient for her and she is trying to avoid the responsibility of childbearing, she needs to grow up and consider adoption. So many women, myself included, would adopt her child.

    If a pregnant woman is face with a situation such as yours, she should have choices.

    June 1, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  18. Cheryl Tennessee

    It is murder. No excuses. No reasons. It is murder. If the same mother were to harm the child herself, she would face charges. Please explain how anyone, anywhere, at any level could sanction such a thing. This goes above and beyond a woman's right to choose.

    June 1, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  19. Jasmine in Germany

    I was 26 weeks pregnant when a large malignant tumor in my uterus was confirmed. The fetus did not have a chance of survival, it had already been severly damaged by the growth of the tumor. My life was now in danger. Would the “pro-lifers” have asked me to give birth to a dead baby and die myself? For what? I didn’t think twice about choosing to have the contents of my uterus removed to continue to be a mother to my living young children. When I made my decision, my doctors thanked me for being so "reasonable". In Germany, abortion is not "legal", but may be performed if medically necessary.

    June 1, 2009 at 1:17 pm |