Letter: Dealing with the ugly truth of abortion

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Sir: Bryan Appleyard's characterisation of the partial birth abortion procedure is one of the nastier pieces of misinformation I've recently come across. Contrary to his assertion that the procedure is "routinely used in America", the practice is actually so rare that only a handful are performed annually, and although the foetus's skull is indeed collapsed to allow its passage through the birth canal, the baby is first painlessly euthanised.

More crucial, however, and oddly absent from Mr Appleyard's rigorously moral tirade, is the fact that this late term procedure is only used in cases where the foetus is so severely handicapped - lacking a brain, for example - that it has no possibility of life. The agonising decision whether or not to carry such a tragically damaged foetus to term must belong to its parents and no one else: certainly not to the government.

Indeed, when the issue of partial birth abortion was brandished by conservative Republicans in Congress last year, it was a committed anti-abortionist mother who came forward to speak on behalf of the procedure, describe its humanity and publicly thank her doctors for their sensitivity to the loss of her much wanted child. Her account should be heard by each and every MP eager to score easy political points by condemning what Appleyard blithely terms "horrific . . . butcher[y]".

JEAN HANFF KORELITZ

Hopewell, New Jersey, USA

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