I’ve been following the conversations about Barack Obama’s statements regarding late term abortion and mental health exceptions at the following blogs among others:
Mahablog (where I was banned – you can read the thread, and read her comment policy and decide for yourself)
I stand by my assertions that degrading the seriousness with which the concept of “mental health” is regarded is a matter of the great importance to me (though it is not a one-issue issue for me – no issue is or else who could I vote for?). So Obama’s explanations (original and clarification) are less than okay to me. And, for comparison’s sake, he’s shown care in discussing race and patriotism. So why not the same when responding to a question about abortion and citing the loaded phrase, “mental distress”? I will never get that, beyond the expediency, given that he was speaking with a Christian magazine. It was too brief and obvious a target that didn’t have to be.
But regardless of my dissatisfaction from the mental health angle, from the abortion angle, I’d like to offer this information from a pdf I linked to last year (a post which, just to demonstrate my consistent focus on the mental health piece far more than the abortion piece, was titled, “Anti-abortion advocate degrades & demeans mental health issues in pregnant women”).
The pdf is a collection of statistics from Kansas, the only state that was collecting data about partial birth procedures. It shows that in 1999, 182 partial birth procedures were reported to have been performed in KS and that in all those instances, the physicians indicated that the major bodily function that would have been impaired if the procedure was’t performed was mental, not physical.
How many is 182? Out of all abortions? Well, the numbers aren’t really there to know for sure, but here are some numbers for perspective:
The best estimate [of how many partial birth procedures are performed annually] appears to be by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute in New York, which researches reproductive health issues. In 2000, the last time it studied the question, the institute estimated there were 1.31 million abortions performed in the United States each year. Of that total, about 2,200, or 0.17 percent, were by “intact dilation and extraction,” which is the medical term for the same procedure [partial birth procedure].
To be willing to throw the definition of mental illness or disease under the bus, or at least make it murkier than it already is, in order to side against reproductive rights on an extremely rarely performed procedure and maybe gain a few conservative votes is the kind of thing makes the phrase, “It will come back to haunt us” play over and over.