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New York Reflects on Historic Abortion Vote

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Dateline 4/10/00

Thirty years ago yesterday, the New York State Assembly was one vote short of the 76 votes needed to legalize abortion on demand through 24 weeks.

In a move that made him a hero to abortionists everywhere, Assemblyman George Michaels stood up and requested that his vote be changed from "nay" to "yea." George Michaels' deciding vote made New York the first abortion free-for-all in the United States.

The fallout was almost immediate. Even before the law went into effect, abortionists were setting up shop openly. One woman who was injured before the law went into effect was surprised when her suit was thrown out of court. She hadn't realized abortion hadn't become legal until June 1.

New York abortionists were ready. Health officials were not.

The fallout wasn't pretty. With far more abortionists than officials to supervise them, the most egregious practices went unremarked. Saline abortions, which can be deadly to mothers even when performed in a hospital under careful monitoring, were being performed on an outpatient basis. Other abortionists, such as Jesse Ketchum, were doing hysterotomy abortions -- major abdominal surgery -- in their offices. Not surprisingly, women paid with their lives. (See sidebar)

Despite this dismal beginning, enthusiasm for legalization continued unabated in many circles. Bernard Nathanson had his staff at CRASH (Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health) compile their statistics on complications recorded in patient charts. Never mind that the charts were known to be incomplete and inaccurate; what mattered was "proving" that freestanding clinics could do "safe" abortions. Abortion enthusiasts used Nathanson's tainted numbers to convince the Supreme Court that the picture was rosy. The dead women, of course, were not deemed worthy of mention.

New York's chaotic, grim years of legalized pre-Roe abortion paved the way for the current regime of unsupervised, marginally regulated abortion mills and the carnage they produce. In a way, all the infertility, and the post-abortion trauma, all the orphaned children and grieving families of women killed by legalized abortion in the United States, have their beginning in George Michaels' decision thirty years ago to stand up for what I'm sure he thought was right.

Time has proved him dead wrong.

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