D&X victory
Jenny Brown
October 1996

Another attempt by abortion foes to chip away at abortion rights failed in late September. Republicans and some Democrats in Congress attempted to rally sufficient votes to override Clinton's veto of legislation banning the D & X abortion procedure. The National Organization for Women (NOW) led the opposition to the measure nationally.

The D&X procedure, called "partial birth abortion" by the press, is used in third and second trimester abortions.

Locally, Gainesville Area NOW held a press conference at the Downtown Federal Building urging all abortion rights advocates to call their Congressional representatives and ask them to vote against the veto override. In the press conference, NOW stated, "Because anti-abortion foes have had so little success with an outright ban on abortion, they are now trying to target specific methods of abortion. 'Dilation and extraction' (D&X) is not new or very different from dilation and evacuation (D&E), the most common second trimester abortion procedure. ...Whether a D&E or D&X procedure is used depends on what is best for the woman considering her medical circumstances. For some women, D&X is the safest procedure which can be used."

NOW continues, "Contrary to the anti-abortion rhetoric, D&X has an excellent safety record and is not something new. In fact the procedure has been used since the 1700's and D&E is the more recent procedure. ... If D&X is made illegal, a more risky procedure will be the only option. Banning a safer medical procedure and using a more dangerous one can only result in unnecessary complications for getting abortions.

"Some opponents of the D&X method have gone so far as to say it would be better if women were to have abortions through having induced labor or a caesarean section. Both labor and caesarean sections have a death rate of more than nine times that of D&E or D&X abortions. This is an example of how little regard anti-abortion forces have for women's lives. ... Never before has Congress taken it upon themselves to decide what surgical procedure a doctor can or cannot perform."

After the ban was defeated, Gainesville Women's Health Center director Patricia Lassiter said that abortion rights advocates and feminists should be on the lookout for states to introduce anti-D&X bills. Speaking at a Gainesville Area NOW meeting, Lassiter said that the Florida legislature this year considered requiring anti-abortion scripts to be read to women who are about to get an abortion. This measure is called "informed consent". The legislature also considered making women wait 24 hours after talking to a doctor before they would be "allowed" to get an abortion. Many women have to take time off work or school and travel to get abortions (because 83% of counties in the U.S. have no abortion providers) and the 24-hour waiting period is another hurdle for women to jump, creating more expense and time wasted. The script and the 24-hour waiting period both imply that women cannot make up their minds and need to be given information and time to "think". In reality, they're just another way to make it harder to get abortions. Both of these bills died in committee, Lassiter said, but no doubt they will be reintroduced in the coming legislative year.

Congressional District 5 Representative Karen Thurman stood with abortion rights advocates and opposed the ban on D&X, she is running against anti-abortion extremist and anti-feminist Republican David Gentry.

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