June 2nd, 2009
02:54 PM ET

AC360° Q&A: A personal perspective on late-term abortion

Editor's Note: Dr. George Tiller, whose Kansas women's clinic frequently took center stage in the U.S. debate over abortion, was shot and killed while serving as an usher at his Wichita church Sunday morning. Since his murder, much attention has been devoted to late-term abortions. AC360° guest Lynda Waddington had a late-term abortion and spoke with Anderson over the phone for an exclusive interview about her experience.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/05/31/kansas.doctor.killed/art.tiller.kake.jpg caption="Dr. George Tiller was one of the few U.S. physicians that performed late-term abortions. "]

Anderson Cooper: Lynda, first of all, what's your reaction to the murder of Dr. Tiller?

Lynda Waddington: My gut reaction is just sadness. To think that someone who had helped me in such a horrible time in my life, an event that most likely saved my own life could be gunned down and killed for that is just surreal and profound.

Cooper: And the reason we're talking to you on the phone is that you didn't want to appear on camera. You're allowing us to use your name but you're fearful about appearing on camera. Why? Have you received threats in the past?

Waddington: Correct. I have. Nothing recently, but emotions are running very high, I think, on both ends of the spectrum after Dr. Tiller's death. And I have young children at home.

Cooper: As you know, the argument against, you know, late abortions is that it's tantamount to murder of a fetus that could be viable outside the womb. You say it's clearly just not that simple. Explain.

Waddington: I think those who are anti-abortion have been very successful in painting the picture of who I am and who other women are who have late abortions. And it kind of ticks me off because it's not accurate. I mean, supposedly I'm just a person who woke up one day and had a back pain or a leg cramp and decided to have an abortion. And that definitely wasn't the case. This was a pregnancy that was planned. A pregnancy that was wanted and loved. And it was tantamount to having a loved one on life support and making that decision whether to end the life support or not.

Cooper: You wrote a letter last summer to then candidate Barack Obama. And you took issue with his position on late-term abortions which at that time he said that states should be able to restrict or prohibit those procedures as long as there's an exception for the health of the mother. Why do you think he's wrong? Why should it be more than just the health of the mother?

Waddington: No, I don't think that statement is necessarily wrong. As much as I wonder who gets to decide what those health concerns are. I mean, there are some people who believe that pregnancy, if God wills it, should be a death sentence for women. There are other people who believe that defects like I experienced should be allowable to terminate a pregnancy. But there are other people, you know, who want to cut that line off that depression. Women are suicidal. I don't think that's a decision government should ever be making, ever.

Cooper: That is the argument you hear probably most often from even some people who support abortions in general that if it's just the mental health of the mother, the depression of the mother, then that's not legitimate enough reason. And you say that's not true. That's inappropriate.

Waddington: I do believe that's inappropriate. I think that's a decision that the mother and the doctor and the family should be able to make on their own. We wouldn't look at someone suffering from cancer and say that you're too depressed to make your decisions regarding your family and your life. Why do we put that on women?

Read Lynda Waddington's open letter to Barack Obama while he was campaigning for the presidency last year. In it she describes her experience and why she needed a late-term abortion.

Filed under: 360° Interview • 360° Radar • Anderson Cooper
soundoff (349 Responses)
  1. Liberal For Life

    I support Pro Choice but like Shanna said, aborting a 8 month fetus does not sit well with me. I could see early on like 8-12 weeks but Anything after 4 months in my opinion seems awful and selfish at that point. If the child will be born with abnormailities, there are people that are out there that would love to care for and help you and the child.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  2. Pinky

    Sule- have you heard of birth control failure? It does happen, my son is here as a result of that. Birth control is not 100%! It is no one's right to infringe on the rights of others. Those that are Pro-Life aren't stepping up to the plate to take care of all these children they saved from abortion. It never ceases to amaze me!

    June 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  3. Erik

    "Thou shalt not kill" It appears that statutes against murder come from the Bible and therefore should be abolished to ensure freedom from religious oppression by the state. Murder is murder and most law is based on morality of the majority.

    The right to privacy when exercised to this extreme should allow me to kill my wife in the privacy of my own home. What I do in my home is my business, right?

    The question is not about morality, religion, or any other fabricated "issue." The question is when is a fetus a person and when is killing it murder. If it is murder, we already know what the law says.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  4. Larry

    If this is the same woman that was TV recently, I believe the problem with was with her and nothing was wrong with the baby. At 8 months she chose to have this viable baby destroyed because her pregnancy was causing her terrible illnesses. She does not ever say that the baby was sick. It sounds like she is looking for public forgiveness for her actions.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  5. John

    I'm pro-common sense. If a woman's life is in danger, abortion should be a choice made between the woman, her family and the doctor.

    Abortion should also be allowed in cases of rape and incest, however this should happen within the first trimester (or as soon as possible).

    Abortion should not be allowed when the baby would be viable outside the womb under any circumstance other then when theres a danger to the woman's health.

    It should also not be allowed as a form of contraception because some forgot to the the pill, didn't use a condom etc.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  6. John

    Is it OK to kill your new born child because you are under difficult circumstances? No, that's murder. It is never OK, to kill your newborn child. Why then is it a matter of privacy and a person's right to abort a baby? Why does it make it OK to kill your child because it is 8 inches up the birth canal? It is not imposing the religious or moral judgment of others any more than we do for killing a newborn.

    I ask that anyone who is pro-choice watch a late term abortion. I guarantee you will change you mind about such procedures. We are not talking about scraping cells from the uterine wall when some one is 6 months pregnant.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  7. Nola

    I wonder if Shanna has ever seen a baby born at 5 months gestation. I have. My daughter was three months premature and weighed less than a pound at birth. She was in the hospital for six months before she was stable enough to come home. Her medical care the first year of her life cost over one million dollars. She has permanent disabilities due to her premature birth.

    Exactly who will provide the extensive care that children born prematurely and/or with major disabilities require, if the parents are not able to do so? Are the people at Operation Rescue willing to take on 24-hour nursing responsibilities for severely disabled individuals for the rest of their lives? If not, what gives them to right to say that somebody else has to do just that? In many cases, the government would wind up paying for the medical expenses and nursing care of people with very little quality of life.

    Are we as a society going to take on that cost, just because some extremists want to enforce their religious beliefs on everybody else?

    June 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  8. John

    If any of you had seen the show last night, you would have known this was an intended pregnancy but this particular baby's defect was that it lacked a skull and brain.

    Abortion is always a tragedy. In this case, however, it was the lesser of two possible tragedies.

    Do we have enough trust of a mother to allow her to choose between alternative tragedies? Or do we mistrust mothers choices so much that we need the government to step in and make the call every time?

    This is the pro-choice argument that is lost in the debate. That abortion is always a tragedy is the pro-life argument that is also lost in the debate.

    Let's start really debating now. Not yelling. And certainly not shooting.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  9. alex

    We wouldn’t look at someone suffering from cancer and say that you’re too depressed to make your decisions regarding your family and your life. Why do we put that on women?

    Actually I was under the impression that euthanasia was still illegal in the united states...

    June 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  10. mel

    You are killing a human life so Abortion = murder ... – there isn't any other way to put it. ... the Truth is hard to grasp I know.... Also the man that killed the Doctor should not have done that, killing more lives isn't going to solve or prove anything. Jesus loves everyone including Abortion doctors and we should too. "Love the sinner and hate the sin"

    June 2, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  11. Been there

    Unless you are the woman in the sad and heartbreaking decision making position described above, you do not have any room to make a comment.

    Each individual situation is different.

    This issue has no place in politics OR religion.

    It is a heartbreaking choice to have to make and if you were in our shoes you would not be so quick to judge.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  12. Carrie

    It is not about religion it is about having morals. Choices have consequences. Not talking about severe abnormality because I am not a doctor, but just to have an abortion because you don't want to have a child is selfish. People know what causes them to get pregnant. If you don't want a baby, don't do it! Or have it and give it up for adoption. Simple enough. People try to relate pro-life to religous beliefs. It is not about religion, it is about not being the cause of a heart that stops beating.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  13. larry

    The interview was all about the mother, family, etc-what about the baby?

    June 2, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  14. Dave Orban

    I'm always amazed at those who would prohibit or restrict the availability of abortion on religious grounds.

    For one thing, not everyone shares that particular religious belief, and it's patently absurd to attempt to impose one's religious belief on another individual.

    For another thing, for all of those folks who believe that God has declared abortion to be "wrong," do you have such little faith in God to think that He won't be able to effectively deal with the situation at Judgment Day? Evidently not, given the vehemence with which they seek to impose their will on others.

    The fact of the matter remains that no one who chooses to have an abortion does so easily or without much consideration and soul-searching. And the pain of their decision stays with them throughout their life. And no one is forcing an abortion on anyone who is, for whatever reason, opposed to them.

    If the proponents of so-called "Right to Life" really wanted to be helpful in this debate, perhaps they would stop blocking initiatives that limit unwanted pregnancies in the first place, such as sex education and family planning - initiatives that can minimize the number of abortions that actually take place.

    If you want to demonize abortion on religious grounds, fine. Just don't expect everyone to share your point of view. Because they don't. And they never will.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  15. Craig

    Ethically, I do not agree with abortion, although I am still pro-choice. All of us, deep down inside, must have the freedom to decide for ourselves what choices we make, and just because my choice doesn't coincide with your choice, my choice shouldn't restrict your choice. What bothers me most about many of the pro-lifers is that they are against abortion AND against sex education and birth control. A totally absurd stance given the outcome.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  16. Teresa

    I think late abortion is sick and disgusting. It is equal to taking a 1 month old and slitting their throat. I think it should be illegal.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  17. Merrill

    The entire premise behind the rule of law is the protection of the innocent. Thats why we have laws. Where abortion is concerned, clearly the most innocent, least at fault individuals involved are the viable babies that sadly, are not protected. As it stands the law fails to protect the innocent. It is an absolute travesty that human beings are allowed to be cut in pieces while alive and sensative, and extracted, is abominable. This is not about choice- clearly in most cases of late term abortion, mothers have other options. Doctors have a choice. The one that doesnt have a choice is the living viable baby. The fact that they make money from the destruction of viable human life is abhorrent and absolutely needs to stop.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  18. CC, New York

    Susan – you are dead wrong. It is about the lawful protection of a life – just like you and me. No one has the right to come up to you and kill you. So the question is – when does "life" begin. Admittedly, this is a very difficult question to answer and everyone has their own opinion based on a number of things, like religion, personal beliefs, etc. etc. This is not a private decision, as all life – even animals – are protected under the laws of our society. We need to continue to protect life.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  19. mak

    Lynda's was a planned and wanted baby but something had gone terribly wrong and it was not a viable child, I think late term aborts are wrong except in the health of the mother life (not just an inconvience), For all other abortions I don't feel that any one has the right to tell someone else what they can or can not do with thier bodies, other wise why not just give most of the men out there the snip, boy would you hear them yelling if someone told them what to do with their bodies.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  20. molly

    Sarah,Canterbury UK..you are right on.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  21. Mari

    A late term abortion should only take place IF the fetus/baby has died or is so malformed that it will not live outside the womb. Period. Seldom is there a reason that involves the life of the mother. A baby who has been in the womb for 4-8 months will if healthy likely survive outside the womb.

    The answer is......... birth control........ use it....... its even FREE!

    June 2, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  22. Marita

    Obviously some people did not bother to read Lynda's letter to Mr. Obama or understand the severe deformity of the fetus. C-section would not have saved the childs life; the only thing keeping it alive was the connection to the mother. Before you get on your tiny little soap box to preach, read all the facts. I am not pro-abortion but I am pro-choice. Whatever I decide to do with my body is between me, my physician and my Higher Power.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  23. Chris in Philly

    When should the baby be protected? 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 months. How about letting the mother terminate the life 1, 2, 3 months after delivery? When should the baby have protection under the law? Our current answer seems rather arbitrary and capricious.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  24. Chris, Ohio

    Did anyone read the letter Ms. Waddingto wrote to then-Sen. Obama? I did, and took it one step further and researched "Anencephaly", the condition her child had. The information & pictures I found were horrifying. According to what I found, this is a neural tube defect resulting in the absence of a major part of the brain, skull and scalp. There is no way these babies can survive at all. There are numerous other conditions which result in late-term abortions. Abortion is not something women take lightly, it is a decision made after much agonizing thought. This procedure needs to be and should be available to individuals, not as a method of birth control as many feel, but as medical option. To me, you are not ending the "life" of a baby, as there is no chance for any life at all. Again, this is a decision best left to those intimately involved – the patient, her doctor and perhaps her family, NOT anyone else.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  25. Nicole

    Shanna (and others)

    Did you people even bother read the reasons she had the late term abortion? The child was so severly disabled he wouldn't survive outside the womb. Late term abortions are not routine. But they are often neccesary to protect the health of the mother. It's no one's business besides the woman, her family, and her doctor.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  26. tampa mike

    The government has no place in private decisions that any individual makes in their lives. You don't get to push your religious beliefs off on others. Live your life and let others live theirs.

    The great thing about democracy is we get to make our own decisions that affect only our lives without goverment interference. And for republicans, you cant have it both ways..."small goverment, no intrusions until you don't follow my religious beliefs."

    Happily Independant and respectful of the way others live their lives!

    June 2, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  27. Trish

    Read her comments – she had a medical crisis that precipitated the abortion – women do not have a late term abortion for cavalier reasons as she said – it is usually a life saving procedure or the child has died or will not live outside the womb. The visuals are horrible, but no one takes that path unless there are the worst of circumstances. Also you can't have it both ways – the goal should be to reduce unwanted pregnancies through good, factual education on birth control. Prevent the unwanted pregnancies, have Plan B available when the condom breaks and you will reduce the need for abortions. You can eliminate abortions and also oppose contraception – that equation doesn't work

    June 2, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  28. Kat

    Sule did you even read the article? This was not a "senseless" pregnancy, it was planned.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  29. Marianne from Beaverton OR

    No one ever talks about the emotional turmoil most women experience after having an abortion. Depression, drug and alcohol abuse, weight gain and eating disorders are just some of the symptoms that post abortive women have. Regradless of one's stand on the abortion issues, women who had an abortion, had a group of cell's with it's own unique set of DNA sucked out of them. A women's pain bodies never forgets that. Abortion that are on demand have serious health and mental consequences for the women. Those of us who have had abortion needs to speak out.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  30. Doug C

    Late term abortions are murder unless bringing and end to the life of the fetus will save the mother's life.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  31. zach

    Shanna is making the rather large assumption that in cases where there are health concerns for either the fetus or mother that major surgery is always a viable option.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  32. blaine lavergne, m.d.

    As a physician I can tell you without a doubt abortion is murder.No matter what name you give it, its still the taking of a human life.I hear a lot of talk about the rights of the mom but what about the right of that child to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The womb should be the safest place in the world for a child but in america today it is one of the most dangerous places to be.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  33. Gunner

    Shanna / Sule,

    Did you actually BOTHER to read Ms. Waddington's letter?

    From you comments, the answer is clearly "No".

    June 2, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  34. Angie

    Sarah: That's exactly what HAPPENED in this case. Something went wrong and the baby wasn't going to survive, and was also risking killing the mother. There's no "have a c-section and save both lives" in Lynda's case – the baby WASNT GOING TO LIVE.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  35. Eddie

    If that isn't murder what is? I made a mistake and got pregnant, so now I'll just kill the baby before it's born. That is shameful and disgusting.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  36. Angie

    Do people not read? Late term pregnancies such as these are not because they aren't wanted, they're because the fetus ISN'T VIABLE, and carrying the pregnancy to term very well may kill the mother. These aren't unwanted babies where 8 months into a pregnancy the mother goes "You know, I think I've changed my mind." These are pregnancies where a mother has planned, and waited for, and in a lot of cases NAMED that baby, and then finds out that something has gone horribly wrong and their baby isn't going to survive, and is putting her life at danger, as well.

    Posting 'haven't you heard of birth control' is the most ridiculous thing ever. She said IN HER INTERVIEW that it was a baby she planned for and WANTED. But it wasn't viable.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  37. l

    So, why did she decide to have the abortion.....

    June 2, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  38. Beth

    Like Lynda, I was a patient of Dr. Tiller's for a late-term abortion. I am a lawyer and my husband is a physician. We had a loved a wanted pregnancy-it was our first. I had a tragic complication while pregnant which led to a number of near fatal problems with the fetus, which were not diagnosed until my third trimester. While all of my doctors at a major teaching hospital in Chicago agreed that this baby would be deeply compromised and would have no quality of life, they told me that if I delivered the baby here that they would be forced to deliver me with a neonatal team that would be required to save the life of this severely disabled child, who was not likely to survive. They all agreed that an abortion would be best, but said it was illegal to perform one in Illinois past 22 weeks. (I have since learned that it was not illegal, it was just against every hospital's policy in the area due to safety concerns caused by anti-choice violent criminals). It was recommended that I see Dr. Tiller, who was the closest of only three doctors in the entire country who was brave enough to still perform a necessary late term abortion. I went to Kansas with a broken heart to terminate a wanted and loved pregnancy on medical advice. Dr. Tiller required evidence from several of my doctors at Northwestern substantiating the host of medical problems with the fetus. He also conducted an ultrasound upon my arrival to further substantiate that the fetus was as compromised as my other doctors had stated. He then treated me and my husband with the highest standard of care and compassion, for which I will be forever grateful. His loss is a loss for women everywhere, and I can only hope that one day another brave man or woman will step in to fill his shoes. And for the record, Dr. Tiller and his clinic would only provide late term abortions to women whose pregnancies were severely compromised, and he required extensive proof of having such a condition. This procedure was never used as a form of birth control! The Anti-Choice movement needs to stop trying to scare the public into thinking that late term abortions are performed for women who flake out and decide they don't want to have a baby. They are only performed when medically rational. Get real and start spewing facts for a change!!!

    June 2, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  39. Sarah, Canterbury UK

    This is just my opinion, but to my mind if there is a strong clinical reason (i.e severe abnormality in the fetus) then and only then would I support the arguement for late abortion.

    I agree with Shanna

    June 2, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  40. sule

    I do not agree with senseless pregnancy's(They are preventable)
    Have you heard Birth Control!
    It is absolutely Senseless.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  41. Ana

    Nobody 'likes' abortion, early or late. Most women who have one do it because they are in a particularly difficult circumstance, not because they don't care. Abortions are expensive, ugly, and traumatic. I think it's time to change the blame mentality. To me, women rights go first. BTW, nobody ever talks about the male.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  42. Barbara416

    Melissa, I second that emotion.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  43. Jo F.

    It's pretty simple: what goes on inside my next door neighbor's body is none of MY business. These anti-choice people don't understand personal boundaries. They also seem to not understand how their own bodies work. If they did, they wouldn't be acting like lunatics.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  44. shanna

    I do not support Lynda at all. When a child is aborted at 8months- there is no excuse. Babies can be born premature at 5months in utero and live long lives.
    Why on earth do you need to abort? Why can't you induce the pregnancy, have a c-section and save both lives?
    There Are other, viable options.

    June 2, 2009 at 11:03 am |
  45. Marcia

    Ultimately, it is the choice of each individual. Those choices should then be supported, through the health care system, just as other personal choices are supported.

    June 2, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  46. susan

    This entire issue is a matter of trying to force one persons religion onto the practice of medicine and hence, onto another.

    The entire abortion issued has been guaranteed under the Bill of Rights' Right to Privacy. But in fact, this protest and other issue is really about imposition of one person's religion or morality on another. It is about trying to use religion to decide what is and is not an appropriate medical procedure.

    (And, I remind all that an even earlier Right guaranteed by said Bill of Rights is the freedom from IMPOSITION of religion by another. The "Founding Fathers" (and Mothers) fled Europe due to such religiosity, the imposition onto another. Interestingly, the one religion they fled more than any other was that papacy! We're still trying to rid ourselves of such imposition.)

    June 2, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  47. Jennifer

    I agree with Lynda. Who is the goverment to decide on what is right and wrong . Soon they will be telling us what to wear and when to wear it

    June 2, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  48. Eva Undusova

    It was very interesting to follow the discussion yesterday. I would like to add my personal experience. I was not given a choice when my newborn was diagnosed with spinal bifida (we learnt three weeks before he was born). I am now divorced, living and working in America with my two sons. Women should always be given freedom to choose (and believe me, it is one of the hardest decisions in your life that you will not be able to run from) as it is them who would bear the consequences for their lifetimes. Thank you.

    June 2, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  49. Melissa

    I fully support Lynda Waddington.

    June 2, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  50. Cindy

    IMO late term abortions are wrong unless the baby has something terribly wrong with it and it can't survive outside of the womb. I don't see any other excuse for allowing a man to barely deliver the head (barely delivering because if the baby comes out too far then its considered a live birth and he can't kill it), cut a hole in the baby's back/neck and cut it's spinal cord to kill it. I just don't agree with that at all!! Like Anderson said last night 80% of these done are elective and not necessary at all.

    Saying that I will say that it was ridiculous to kill Dr Tiller. That defeats the purpose of saying you are against murder. Plus it won't stop the practice from being done. Another doctor will just take his place.


    June 2, 2009 at 10:16 am |
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