Oklahoma court should uphold law banning dismemberment of living unborn babies

By Tony Lauinger

Editor’s note. Mr. Lauinger is Chairman of Oklahomans For Life and Vice President of National Right to Life. This appeared at The Oklahoman.

Tony Lauinger

Nearly 100,000 living unborn children in the U.S. are killed each year by a barbaric procedure known as dismemberment abortion. Oklahoma’s Supreme Court is deciding whether a 2015 law prohibiting this grotesque practice in our state can go into effect.

The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act defines the procedure: “‘Dismemberment abortion’ means, with the purpose of causing the death of an unborn child, purposely to dismember a living unborn child and extract him or her one piece at a time from the uterus through use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that … slice, crush, and/or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip it off.”

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, although a supporter of legal abortion, was so repulsed by this abortion procedure that he described it candidly in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000):

“The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn apart limb by limb. The fetus can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while its limbs are being torn off.”

Other pro-abortion justices have grudgingly acknowledged the logic of equating dismemberment abortion with partial-birth abortion, which the court prohibited in 2007. Ruth Bader Ginsburg in that case wrote that dismemberment abortion “could equally be characterized as ‘brutal,’ … involving as it does ‘tear[ing] [a fetus] apart’ and ‘ripp[ing] off’ its limbs, …”

Abortion supporters might counter that in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Supreme Court repeated its acknowledgment in Roe v. Wade of a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children only at, and after, viability. However, Justice Kennedy in Stenberg later explained:

“[In Casey] We held it was inappropriate for the Judicial Branch to provide an exhaustive list of state interests implicated by abortion. Casey is premised on the States having an important constitutional role in defining their interests in the abortion debate. … States also have an interest in forbidding medical procedures which, in the State’s reasonable determination, might cause the medical profession or society as a whole to become insensitive, even disdainful, to life, including life in the human fetus. … A State may take measures to ensure the medical profession and its members are viewed as healers, sustained by a compassionate and rigorous ethic and cognizant of the dignity and value of human life, even life which cannot survive without the assistance of others.”

Dismemberment abortion kills a baby in the womb in the most callous and inhumane manner imaginable. Oklahoma has a compelling state interest in prohibiting this practice.