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Another View -- Keith Murphy: We must stop killing viable fetuses

March 04. 2018 11:01PM

Several years ago, a friend of mine gave birth to a premature infant, a girl, at 26 weeks. I watched this tiny child struggle to breathe, with her pink hand trying to wrap around her mother’s finger. It was very touch and go, and her parents were prepared for the worst. Following on social media, I checked in on baby Jane regularly in those early days.

Eventually it occurred to me to ask: If a baby can live at 26 weeks, how premature can a child be and survive? I discovered that children have been born as early as 21 weeks, thrived, and grown to have families of their own. My first thought was to marvel at medical progress. My second thought was to wonder how late babies can be aborted, and if there’s any overlap. Are we allowing viable fetuses to be aborted?

To my horror, I discovered that New Hampshire is one of only seven states that allows abortions right up to the moment of birth. For that matter, except for those seven states, abortions upon viable unborn children are banned worldwide outside of North Korea and China.

This is a terrible oversight. If one were to hold a premature infant at 28 weeks no one would deny that this child has all of the rights and protections of any of us, yet while people are working to save that baby’s life another group of people may be in the same building purposely killing a child at 32 weeks. That is illogical, deeply immoral, and impossible to defend from any rational perspective. I discussed this issue with my aunt, a hospital anesthesiologist, and she told me of assisting once in a late-term abortion where the child was born alive but tossed in a bucket and ignored for several minutes while it tried to breathe. After that day she chose not to participate in late term abortions.

While politicians often argue for extreme pro-life and pro-choice positions, essentially an “all-or-nothing” approach, most people think the line should be in the middle, with early abortions allowed but late term abortions banned. According to a January Marist poll, 86 percent of Americans believe that third trimester abortions should be outlawed. That’s as close to a consensus as we are going to get on this issue.

As a state representative, I had to try to do something to fix this oversight. Twice, I have introduced bills to outlaw the practice, and twice the bills have been voted down on the House floor, opposed by a handful of Republicans and all Democrats but one. Last year it failed by 13 votes.

This year I’m trying again. HB 1680 would forbid a doctor from aborting a fetus he or she determines to be viable, unless the mother’s life or physical health is in danger. A doctor that proceeds with aborting a viable fetus would face disciplinary action by the state Board of Medicine.

The opposition has trotted out the same tired arguments. They claim that abortions like this rarely happen in our state, but the truth is that the state doesn’t license who can or cannot perform abortions, inspect any clinics, or collect any statistics, so there’s no way to know for sure. There are doctors nationally that advertise that they will perform third-trimester abortions, with others that are more discreet about their willingness to do them. The practice is banned in Massachusetts, so it’s entirely possible that a clinic could quietly operate in southern New Hampshire, now or in the future. With our state being one of only seven nationally to allow a baby due on Monday to be killed on Friday, we must act to ensure this never, ever happens here. The CDC estimates that nationally 1.4 percent of abortions happen after 21 weeks. This does happen for a variety of reasons, and the consequences of continuing to do nothing are too gruesome to contemplate.

The House is scheduled to vote on HB 1680 this week. Reasonable people can disagree on the larger issue of abortion, but rational people should agree that aborting children that can live outside the womb is tantamount to infanticide. If you agree with me, please contact your representatives in Concord and ask them to support HB 1680.

And Baby Jane? She just celebrated her third birthday, and I’m happy to say that she is a happy, beautiful little girl with her whole life ahead of her.

Rep. Keith Murphy represents Bedford.

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