Defending WebCam Abortions Requires Misreading Pro-Life Motives, Ignoring Pro-Abortionists’ Agenda

By Dave Andrusko

Dr. Art Caplan

Webcam abortions are a kind of arraigned marriage between a very legitimate medical practice—telemedicine—and RU486, the pro-abortionist’s dream “technique” for insinuating abortion into every nook and cranny in the United States and every unsuspecting third-world village in the developing world.

The evil genius of webcam abortions is to disguise the real agenda—making sure that the decline in the number of abortions is not only stopped but sent speeding in the other direction—with innocuous assurances that combining a drug that has already killed at least 14 women in the United with the absence of the abortionist himself is a service to women.

We’ve written about webcam abortions on many, many occasions. With webcam abortions (called “telemedicine” by supporters) an abortionist, typically from a clinic in a large urban center, communicates with a woman at a remote location by means of a video conferencing system. After a brief screening and “counseling” session, he clicks a mouse and triggers the opening of a drawer from which the woman takes out the two drugs that make up the “RU-486” chemical abortion regimen: mifepristone and misoprostol.

Yesterday we critiqued a new study from a pro-abortionist announcing (as a headline very aptly summarized the “findings”) that “Abortions via ‘telemedicine’ are safe, effective, Iowa study finds: Women don’t need face-to-face contact to take RU-486; doctors supervise remotely.”

Although he does not reference the study by Dr. Daniel Grossman, Arthur Caplan no doubt knew the results when he wrote an op-ed for msnbc.com titled “Attack on ‘telemedicine’ is really about squashing women’s rights.” Dr. Caplan occupies a powerful niche, the “go-to” bioethicist who writes in a breezy, provocative, and universally pro-abortion manner.

And because Caplan does get read, it’s worth correcting at least some of the errors he makes and trust the discerning reader to figure out the many others we don’t have time to address. (What follows is about more than just webcam abortions because Caplan’s assault is launched on many additional fronts.)

#1. “Telemedicine has been around for nearly a decade. … No one has ever said a negative word about the merits of telemedicine until Planned Parenthood used the technology to remotely open a draw that contained abortion drugs.” I assume this is to be taken at face value.

Honestly, is it really difficult to grasp “the fundamental difference between a situation in which a person is dealing with some serious illness or health risk in an emergency situation and has no immediate access to a doctor versus one [a woman seeking an abortion] in which there is no underlying health issue and the procedure is entirely elective,” as Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, NRLC Director of Education has explained. “If one is trying to save a life and there is no doctor available, telemedicine is a risk worth taking. For elective, and certainly for dangerous, procedures, it is an entirely different issue.”

#2. “The undermining of American medicine in the name of restricting abortion goes way past impugning telemedicine,” Caplan writes. “Six states have enacted ‘fetal pain’ laws, which restrict abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Anti-abortion activists argue that fetuses can feel pain at that point. There is no consensus in medicine or science that this is true. Making up the facts simply undermines public trust in science.”

Again, read carefully. Caplan argues there is no “consensus.” Okay, I am perfectly willing to grant that there are dissenters to the proposition that the hardware and connections are in place no later than 20 weeks post-fertilization for the unborn to feel pain. But is that the same as pro-lifers “making up the facts”?

To the contrary there is plenty of evidence on which to base (and pass) a “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” But ask yourself who are the major sources pro-abortionists turn to for rebuttals? As we shall see they are, to put it in the politest possible terms, hardly convincing.

For example, six years ago, the AMA published in its official journal a piece that purported to show that there is no good evidence that the unborn feels pain before 29 weeks (during the seventh month)!  The authors’ conclusion (which was predetermined by their political agenda) was and is disputed by experts with far more extensive credentials in pain research than any of the authors.  These independent authorities say that there is substantial evidence from multiple lines of research that unborn humans can perceive pain during the fifth and sixth months (i.e., by 20 weeks gestational age), and perhaps somewhat earlier.

The other source is Britain’s Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. RCOG  published a “Working Party report” last year concluding that the “human fetus” cannot feel pain until 24 weeks’ gestation. (At least they are headed in the direction of the truth.) Among other amazing assertions is that all the evidence is beside the point.

So what if pain signals reach the fetal cerebral cortex? They wouldn’t concede that point but it makes no difference. “[T]he fetus never enters a state of wakefulness in utero.” Get it? You can lop off arms and legs, crush skulls, and the child will blissfully feel nothing because…he’s sleeping!

#3. Caplan pulls out his sharpest knives to carve up informed consent legislation—“the greatest victim of anti-abortion sentiment.” Is it really necessary to inform women that there are risks associated with abortion? Pro-lifers—indeed, anyone—would respond isn’t that the essence of informed consent?

Should women be told there are alternatives and resources to help them carry their baby to term? Can it have escaped Caplan’s attention that the Guttmacher Institute–of all people–in its 2005 “Reasons U.S. women Have Abortions,” included this as part of its summary: “They saw not having a child as their best (and sometimes only) option”? Is the choice for death the only legitimate “choice”?

#4. Finally, there is not a whisper that webcam abortions fatten the abortion industry’s bottom line nor a syllable that suggests having a RU486 abortion is dangerous—and would be even more dangerous when the abortionist is hundreds of miles away. (In addition to the 14 women who have died, since 2000 when the FDA authorized RU486’s use here, there have been 2,207 instances of what the FDA gingerly calls “adverse events”– with 612 women hospitalized.)

Here’s what Dr. O’Bannon, a recognized authority on chemical abortions,  told me.

“Of course, women can call Planned Parenthood if they have a problem, but exactly what are they to do when the doctor is a couple of hundred miles away? Even if she makes it to a nearby emergency room, doctors there may be unfamiliar with the chemical abortion process or its risks or complications.

“Even if they are fortunate enough to avoid hemorrhage or infection, for a certain percentage of women, these pills do not work. These women, if they are still determined to abort, will face a surgical procedure. Is Planned Parenthood expecting women from these rural areas to travel to Des Moines to complete their abortions?

“Webcam abortions generate buzz and open up a whole new customer base in locations where Planned Parenthood can’t afford to post an abortionist. It gives some of their smaller offices a chance to bring in a very profitable product without having to make a lot of changes or buy a whole lot of new equipment.”

The best way to understand the abortion industry, and to end this post, would be to quote the source for Woodward and Bernstein (of Watergate fame) who advised them  to “Follow the Money.”

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