Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The big news story around here is Danish public TV's investigation of illegal late-term abortions being practiced in Barcelona. One thing Americans don't realize is that most European countries have much stricter abortion laws than the US, where the Supreme Court has ruled that abortion on demand is a constitutional right.

Spanish law sets three conditions under which abortion is legal: 1) If the fetus is deformed. Two doctors must agree. Legal up to 22 weeks. 3.5% of abortions performed in Catalonia in 2005. 2) If the woman was raped. Legal up to 12 weeks. Only one abortion in Catalonia in 2005. 3) If the woman's physical or mental health is at risk. One doctor (counting psychiatrists) must agree. No theoretical time limit, though only seven, 0.04%, of 2005 abortions were performed later than 22 weeks. 96.5% of abortions in Catalonia in 2005. (Note: If seven, 0.04%, of all abortions were later than 22 weeks, that means the total number of abortions in Catalonia last year was 17,500, right? That seems a lot.)

Quite clearly, the risk to the woman's mental health is the enormous loophole here. Just get a shrink to sign off and it's D&C city.

The Danish TV network reported that in Spain, not only in Catalonia, abortions on highly-developed fetuses, as advanced as six months, are routinely performed. La Vanguardia says that if a cesarian section rather than an abortion had been performed in these cases, the children (no longer fetuses) would have survived.

The Danish investigators filmed a Barcelona doctor named Carlos Morin of the GBM clinic offering to perform an abortion on a woman 31 weeks pregnant, which is just plain infanticide, in exchange for €4000. Morin has a history of doing such things; an October 2004 Sunday Telegraph investigation reported that he had aborted 30-week babies. The Danish team interviewed a woman who had received an abortion at the EMC clinic in Barcelona at 27 weeks. Morin was a doctor at EMC at that time.

According to the Danes, Catalonia is a favorite destination for European women who want to abort, and some 5% of abortions performed in Catalonia (at least 830 in 2005) are performed on foreign women. London and Amsterdam, also homes of liberal abortion laws, are other popular abortion destinations for women from such countries as Germany and Ireland. The Danes also say that they believe further illegal, unregulated abortions are also performed in Barcelona.

Time for my personal opinion, which is pragmatic and will please neither side. Make abortion on demand legal, American style, as long as the fetus is non-viable, which I think is about 12 weeks. Then, when it becomes viable and is clearly a baby, make abortion illegal with a very few exceptions for women whose lives are actually physically in danger or fetuses with severe deformities who would not survive if carried to term. These exceptions would be hard to get, requiring, say, three gynecologists to agree.

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