Tells Legislators That Performing Abortions “Would Entail Undue and Dangerous Delay” in Providing Life-Saving Care for Women
From the testimony of Dr. Anthony Levatino, an ob-gyn who formerly performed abortions and has treated women with high-risk pregnancies, before the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks:
Before I close, I want to make a comment on the necessity and usefulness of utilizing second and third trimester abortion to save women’s lives. I often hear the argument that we must keep abortion legal in order to save women’s lives in cases of life threatening conditions that can and do arise in pregnancy.
Albany Medical Center, where I worked for over seven years, is a tertiary referral center that accepts patients with life threatening conditions related to or caused by pregnancy. I personally treated hundreds of women with such conditions in my tenure there. There are several conditions that can arise or worsen typically during the late second or third trimester of pregnancy that require immediate care. In many of those cases, ending or “terminating” the pregnancy, if you prefer, can be life saving. But is abortion a viable treatment option in this setting? I maintain that it usually, if not always, is not.
Before a Suction D & E procedure can be performed, the cervix must first be sufficiently dilated. In my practice, this was accomplished with serial placement of laminaria. Laminaria is a type of sterilized seaweed that absorbs water over several hours and swells to several times its original diameter. Multiple placements of several laminaria at a time are absolutely required prior to attempting a suction D & E.
In the mid second trimester, this requires approximately 36 hours to accomplish. When utilizing the D & X abortion procedure, popularly known as Partial-Birth Abortion, this process requires three days as explained by Dr. Martin Haskell in his 1992 paper that first described this type of abortion.
In cases where a mother’s life is seriously threatened by her pregnancy, a doctor more often than not doesn’t have 36 hours, much less 72 hours, to resolve the problem. Let me illustrate with a real -life case that I managed while at the Albany Medical Center. A patient arrived one night at 28 weeks gestation with severe pre-eclampsia or toxemia.
Her blood pressure on admission was 220/160. As you are probably aware, a normal blood pressure is approximately 120/80. This patient’s pregnancy was a threat to her life and the life of her unborn child. She could very well be minutes or hours away from a major stroke. This case was managed successfully by rapidly stabilizing the patient’s blood pressure and “terminating” her pregnancy by Cesarean section. She and her baby did well. This is a typical case in the world of high-risk obstetrics. In most such cases, any attempt to perform an abortion “to save the mother’s life” would entail undue and dangerous delay in providing appropriate, truly life-saving care.
During my time at Albany Medical Center I managed hundreds of such cases by “terminating” pregnancies to save mother’s lives. In all those hundreds of cases, the number of unborn children that I had to deliberately kill was zero.
Dr. Levatino writes about the health risks of later abortion:
Second trimester abortion procedures are neither simple nor safe …
It is particularly easy to cause a uterine perforation as the uterine walls are thin, soft and very vascular. Once while performing a suction D&E at, coincidentally 18 weeks, I was unaware that I had perforated the uterus until I pulled my patient’s intestines out through her cervix and vagina. That was a life-threatening injury. It turned out well because she was in a hospital operating room with proper anesthesia and we could respond immediately to the crisis. I shudder to think what would have happened to my patient if she had been in a freestanding clinic. …
… If a serious complication occurs, the woman will be dumped into a local emergency room and a physician with admitting privileges will be forced to care for her. Whole Women’s Health website promises a “fabulous abortion experience.” Is being abandoned by your abortionist when a serious complication occurs fabulous?
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Is Late Term Abortion Ever Necessary?