President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead global health development at the Agency for International Development once argued that partial-birth abortion techniques should not be vilified.
“Grossness is not a good objection,” wrote Atul Gawande in a 1998 Slate Op-Ed.
“Lots of operations are gross — leg amputations, burn surgery, removal of facial tumors, etc. But that does not make them wrong.”
A partial-birth abortion is one in which a doctor delivers a living baby until its head is outside the mother’s body, then punctures the back of the baby’s head, “removing the baby’s brains,” according to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
Biden’s Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has repeatedly refused to acknowledge that the procedure is illegal, though the ban passed Congress in 2003 and was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007.
Gawande also described partial-birth abortion in gruesome detail in his 1998 Op-Ed, acknowledging that late-term abortions are “disturbing” since the unborn baby is “big now — like a fully formed child.”
“The fetus is delivered feet first. To get the large head out, the doctor cuts open a hole at the base of the fetus’s skull and inserts tubing to suck out the brain, which collapses the skull.”
Thank you to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for yesterday’s hearing on my nomination to lead global health at @USAID. Thanks in particular to @SenJohnBarrasso for his wonderful introduction and strong support. @SFRCdems @SenateForeign
— Atul Gawande (@Atul_Gawande) September 30, 2021
Gawande suggested that if partial-birth abortions are “too gruesome to allow,” perhaps dilation and evacuation abortions (in which the unborn baby is vacuumed out of the mother’s womb) are as well.
“And that’s the inevitable next target for pro-life advocates,” he wrote.
“Two of my obstetrician friends, both strongly pro-choice, told me that, even when it is a mother’s life at stake and abortion is absolutely necessary, doing the D and E feels ‘horrible,’” the Biden nominee wrote.
“We imagine, as we look in the fetus’s eyes, that there is someone in there. And if there were, any elective late abortion — even by induction — would be wrong, though D and E and partial-birth abortion would seem especially cruel.”
Gawande questioned whether there is “someone in there,” noting that Roe v. Wade has led pro-life advocates to “focus on whether the fetus is viable.”
The Biden nominee said that when he has a patient breathing on life support, the patient is not necessarily a “living person anymore.” What matters, he said, is whether the brain is functioning.
“Likewise, in the case of a fetus, it seems that what we want to know is whether it has a brain with the spark of consciousness,” he wrote.
“For example, we don’t view anencephalics, babies tragically born with only a brain stem and not the rest of the brain, as living humans. Even for viable anencephalics, there’s no purpose to providing treatment. We let them die.”
“Whether the fetus is in the womb or out, big or small, does not matter, either,” he added.
“But the size and appearance of the late-term fetus make us imagine that it has become a sensate, aware creature — and makes many supporters of first-trimester abortion uncomfortable with later-term ones.”
Gawande said the unborn baby “does become a distinctly different being” somewhere between 22 and 25 weeks. “We need more in-depth study to identify this critical juncture,” he wrote.
“There’s no good reason to single out partial-birth abortion — or any technique,” he concluded.
Gawande did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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