Dakota Voice is reviewing the Report of the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion, in light of the upcoming November vote on Initiated Measure 11 to end most abortions in South Dakota. Pertinent sections of the report will be reviewed each week for the next several weeks which may shed light on Initiated Measure 11.
Second Week: What Has Been Learned Since the Roe v. Wade
Third Week: The Current Practice of Abortion in South Dakota
Fourth Week: The Experiences of Women Who Have Had Abortions
The following is from Section II.B.4 on the findings of the report: ===================================
Dr. Ola Didrik Saugstad, a world renowned neonatologist, submitted a declaration. Dr. Saugstad was honored as the recipient of the Yippo Award, which is given to only one neonatologist in the world, once every five years. He was also selected President of the European Congress of Perinatal Medicine in 2001 and given the prestigious Versinie Apgar prize from the World Perinatal Association. He has treated babies as young as twenty-one weeks postconception and only one pound in weight.
Dr. Saugstad stated that the field of neonatology has had enormous development in the last two decades. One of the most important advances was the introduction of surfactant therapy. The injection of surfactant into the lungs of premature infants has resulted in improved survival rates of the tiniest infants. In the US, approximately 50% to 60% of infants with gestational post-conception ages of 21 and 22 weeks respectively now survive.
Dr. Saugstad has provided vital testimony in his declaration. We especially find merit in his testimony from pages 7-14. Some of his testimony follows:
“The anatomical, biochemical, and physiological development of a human being also starts early in fetal life and continues long after birth. Although the fetus is wholly dependent on the mother in order to survive, the extremely premature infant is wholly dependent on its surroundings. Even a term baby is dependent on its surroundings in order to survive. The concept of viability is therefore not as interesting as it seemed only some years ago. It is the same human being whether it is an early embryo, a fetus around midterm (20 weeks) or pre-term born after 23-25 weeks of gestation. The human subject is completely helpless and dependent on its care givers for a long time – from conception until late childhood. The child is a whole separate human being from conception and throughout the full gestational period, whether entirely spent in utero or not.”
“Suggestions or implications that a woman considering an abortion should be told anything about whether or not the fetus is a human being based upon whether the child is or is not of “viable” age would be misleading. The child is a human being before viability just as well as after viability and, as I previously indicated, viability is irrelevant to that question. There is absolutely nothing that can be told to the woman that is different about a child that is a so called “post viable” age as opposed to one that is “pre viable” age with reference to the pure question of whether as a matter of biological fact, the fetus is a human being.”
“I have traveled all around the world and have lectured in many different countries. The laws of those countries vary widely in how those countries view human beings both born and unborn. Whether a particular adult person holds legal or moral beliefs that individual human beings should be treated with equal respect and dignity, or whether there are justifications for treating them differently or be accorded degrees of respect may reflect the culture, but those individual beliefs are totally irrelevant to whether or not it is a human being. Just because in one culture some adult human beings are not treated equally or not even given legal rights, does not mean they are not human beings. Science is oblivious to such concepts.”
“It defies all reason to suppose that the relative abilities of the adults or medical professionals at any one point in history or at any one place on earth – external to the child – determines if the child is a member of the human race. If adult care givers are inadequate, their failings do not render one child not human, but another, at the exact same age of gestation, human beings because he or she received proper care. At any one time, children in one part of the world will survive at younger gestational ages than children in other parts of the world because of the difference in the quality of medical services. Those services, administered differently, don’t define the humanity of the children. An unborn child in Africa, twenty-one weeks post-conception is just as much a human being as a twenty-one week post-conception child in the United States despite the fact that the African child may not be able to receive the kind of medical services the child in the United States may receive. The African child is not “viable”. The American child is. Both are human beings.”
“The point at which professionals can provide sufficient medical assistance to help a pre-term baby to survive outside the mother’s womb is essentially a study in the abilities of those in medicine, not a statement of the essence or nature of the patient.”
“The history of newborn medicine teaches us that the prognosis of sick newborn infants and especially pre-term infants has been dramatically improved over the past century and even in recent decades. It is impossible to know the extent of future developments that might lead to a human being able to live its entire post-conception life apart from the mother.”
(Excerpts from Saugstad Declaration, P. 7 to P. 14.)
The 2005 South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion was created when the South Dakota legislature passed HB 1233 with a bipartisan majority in both houses. The purpose of the task force was “to study abortion and to provide for its composition, scope, and administration.” The report was completed in December 2005 after several months of meetings.
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