At the beginning of April, pro-life activist Lauren Handy made national news when she turned over to DC police the remains of five aborted children. Handy had recently obtained these remains from a truck driver for a medical waste company who had been transporting them from the Washington Surgi-Clinic.
In the days following the initial news coverage, Live Action and other groups posted to social media images and video of the remains. Warning: the following link contains very graphic imagery. The imagery appears to depict the remains of children who were past viability when they died. Link here.
[Read more details of Lauren’s story from us (“How and Why Lauren Handy Obtained Abortion Victim’s Remains”) and from Rehumanize International (“Lauren Handy, PAAU, and the Fetal Remains”).]
Pro-choice response on social media has reached a kind of contradictory fever pitch. Countless pro-choice people have expressed outrage that Handy obtained the fetal remains; none (that I’ve seen, anyway) have expressed concern over how developed these children were or why they were aborted in the first place.
Handy and other pro-life activists have argued that the remains of these children bear injuries and other indications that the manner of their deaths may have broken federal law (the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and/or the Born Alive Infant Protections Act). The DC police have thus far declined to investigate, so we can’t say with certainty.
It would be one thing if abortion activists argued only that there is insufficient evidence of criminal activity. We may disagree on what constitutes reasonable evidence, but there’s at least a reasonable argument that we can’t say for sure these children died illegally.
However, the pro-choice side has taken their response well beyond reasonable skepticism into delusional degrees of denial. The denial exists on several levels.
1. No bodies to see here.
The most frequent response I’ve seen from pro-choicers and abortion activists is that there’s nothing to see here. Many won’t refer to these remains as “remains,” or as “fetuses,” “babies,” “children,” “corpses,” “cadavers,” or anything that would suggest a body. They can only say “medical waste,” “biohazard waste,” “tissue,” “products of conception” and the other standard euphemisms. But when we’re discussing remains of children with probable gestational ages up to 32 weeks, these euphemisms are just farcical. How fragile is the pro-choice position if it’s threatened by simply verbalizing the reality of later abortion?
2. Okay, yes, bodies, but not from an abortion clinic.
I’ve had a handful of pro-choice people suggest these remains were not from abortions. As with probably almost every instance of graphic imagery, some simply assert the images are Photoshopped or the video deceptively edited. Some have said the remains were miscarriages and stillbirths. Others have claimed they were donated by grieving parents (donated to who or for what purpose was not specified – perhaps medical research?) The more wild-eyed and conspiratorial have even suggested the remains are all Lauren’s own children, hidden over an unspecified time period.
This is all nonsense, of course. The DC police readily acknowledge these children were aborted. No official account or authority involved is disputing that part.
3. Okay, yes, bodies from an abortion clinic, but for good reasons.
Some pro-choicers can acknowledge that these are bodies, but can’t acknowledge the probability that the remains resulted from elective abortions. They cling to unsubstantiated certainty that these were stillbirths or abortions for fatal fetal anomalies or something that would make the existence of these remains morally acceptable.
It is possible that every one of these children had a lethal fetal anomaly and their abortions were intended as a form of euthanasia. And if pro-choicers were arguing only that it’s possible, I would consider their point wishful thinking but not actually delusional. Instead, however, I’ve seen defenders of abortion insist that these abortions had to be for medically necessary reasons. That is definitely not the case.
To begin with, even in states that have gestational limits on abortion, most abortions after 21 weeks are not done for medical emergencies. For example, Arizona limits elective abortion to viability (typically considered between 22-24 weeks). Arizona also publishes data on how many abortions are performed in the state after 21 weeks, and how many of those abortions are for reasons of maternal or fetal health. From 2010 to 2019, 4.4% of 21+ week abortions were for maternal health reasons, 17.6% were for fetal medical conditions, and the other 78% were for neither.
To reiterate, these statistics are from a state where, if you miss the gestational cutoff, you can’t get the abortion, meaning there is some number of people every year who would otherwise seek elective abortion who no longer can. In a place like Washington DC, that limitation doesn’t apply.
Washington DC has no gestational limits on abortion. That’s why DC-based DuPont clinic advertises 26+ week abortions and emphasizes these later abortions do not have to be medically indicated. The clinic where the remains of these five children originated, Washington Surgi-Clinic, similarly advertises performing abortions up until “27 plus” weeks, never purporting to require medical indication. They have women come to them from around the country for this exact reason: to get later abortions when there is no medical emergency.
Such abortions are deeply unpopular with the American public: 80% believe abortion should be generally illegal in the third trimester. Note this percentage would inevitably include most self-described pro-choice people. It makes sense, then, for most pro-choice people to want these remains to be the result of medical emergencies; the alternative–that these were healthy, viable children killed for no medical reason–is heartbreaking and horrifying.
I don’t blame anyone for wishing it; I blame them for assuming it or, worse, insisting on it. There is no evidence that these abortions were all for medical emergencies. What information we do have about later abortions suggests that’s unlikely.
Bodies from an abortion clinic, most likely for horrible reasons.
At Secular Pro-Life we’ve long been collecting evidence demonstrating most later abortions (abortions after about 5 months/21 weeks) are performed on healthy fetuses carried by healthy women. The idea that later abortion happens primarily or only because of medical emergency is a myth.
Many abortion activists refuse to believe this. I can show them an article about a woman obtaining a ~6 month elective abortion, and they’ll argue that, although the article made no mention of medical issues, it did not explicitly say the fetus was healthy, so it was probably a medically necessary abortion. I can show them an abortion clinic’s website stating specifically that they will see patients past 26 weeks regardless of any fetal indication or maternal health issue, and the activists will argue that the clinic said they would see, as in talk to, the patient, but they never said they’d perform an abortion at that point. I can give the activists direct quotes from abortion providers saying they will abort healthy, viable babies, and the activists will counter that the quote is out of context, and the provider was only willing to consider, but not necessarily perform, the abortion.
Abortion activists at least imply, sometimes insist, no one is getting elective later abortions, but they also insist elective later abortions must remain legal. They claim legality is necessary to keep politicians out of private medical decisions and to hold the line against more sweeping anti-abortion restrictions. In a way, they’re right. Elective late-term abortion is an entry point into the pro-life movement. The average American is deeply uncomfortable, even repulsed, by the idea. If abortion activists were to acknowledge the existence, much less prevalence, of elective later abortion, they would be allowing a crack in the dam of the “abortion on demand and without apology” regime. I believe that risk is one of the reasons they can’t acknowledge these abortions happen. I also suspect many can’t acknowledge it because a part of them reacts with revulsion, and wants very much to believe that the status quo they fight for would never have such horrific results.
That belief is a pleasant fiction. The United States is extreme, one of only seven nations that refuses to recognize a right to life even in the third trimester. If that changes with Dobbs, it will be in large part because of pro-life advocates’ many years of hard work exposing the horrors of late-term abortion.