Several years ago, Mother Jones profiled late-term abortionist William Rashbaum, who died in 2005. Writer Rebecca Paley attempted to paint Rashbaum in a positive light, calling him a “champion of women’s rights” and “exceptional.” She also stated, “He treats all his patients with the same obsessive care.”
Yet she quoted Rashbaum reassuring a late-term abortion patient that he is a good doctor because “only” 18 women he operated on lost their ability to bear future children, openly admitting to botching these abortions. He presented this as a good thing, as if it would calm the fears of a woman about to have a late-term abortion. Apparently, in the abortion business, destroying the fertility of “only” 18 women is considered good practice, which doesn’t say much for the safety of abortion.
Rashbaum reportedly taught approximately 100 doctors how to do late-term abortions, and a previous Live Action News article discussed how he screamed and yelled at these abortionists while they operated on women. From the Mother Jones article:
In the operating room, Rashbaum readily yells at the top of his lungs at residents working with forceps inside a woman’s uterus, where he can’t see what they’re doing, to make sure they are as nervous as he is.
This no doubt created a hostile and dangerous situation for the women undergoing abortions.
Paley described in her article how when Rashbaum first started committing abortions, he had no idea what he was doing:
In the beginning, Rashbaum had problems performing abortions…. Like the other board-certified doctors who were suddenly doing procedures previously relegated to back alleys, Rashbaum lacked training in the necessary medical techniques. “None of us knew what we were doing,” he says. “The only people who knew how to do abortions were the criminals.”
Rashbaum and his colleagues practically taught themselves how to perform abortions and were limited by the crude instruments of those days — Dixie cups attached to the suction machine by rubber bands.
It is shocking that Rashbaum used this type of equipment to do invasive surgery on women. One can only imagine how many women were injured. At a National Abortion Federation conference in 1976, Rashbaum admitted (emphasis added):
When I first started doing abortions, I took my boards in obstetrics and gynecology and therefore I knew I was competent to do it. After I had done my first few hundred, I realized how silly I had been in my previous viewpoint. After I had done a thousand, I thought I was an expert but by the time I had done 5000 I realized I was learning a lot. At this point, having done somewhere around 12,000 procedures, I’m beginning to think I’m reasonably competent.1
Paley went on to praise Rashbaum in her article, making the following shocking statements:
[A] large part of what makes Rashbaum exceptional stems from stereotypical male traits: He is a workaholic, undaunted by the threat of violence, and focused on getting the job done. In emergencies, he has driven patients to the hospital in his own car. Once, while operating on a woman with severe complications, he passed out from exhaustion, and as the other doctors were administering an ekg to make sure he wasn’t having a heart attack, he awoke, ripped off the wires, and returned to save the woman’s life.
First of all, an abortionist driving a woman to the hospital in his own car is not a sign of good health care. More likely, Rashbaum didn’t want patients and pro-life protesters to see an ambulance parked outside his abortion facility. Hustling an injured woman out of an abortion facility and stuffing her in a car, where it is almost impossible to give emergency treatment or CPR, further endangers her health and life. An ambulance is equipped with lifesaving equipment such as defibrillators and medications. And why does Paley praise Rashbaum for saving the life of a woman he endangered in the first place? The takeaway should be that he botched an abortion so badly the woman’s life was in danger and he had to work frantically to undo the damage he caused.
Rashbaum’s lack of experience and substandard equipment endangered women; he admittedly botched multiple abortions and further endangered women by driving them to the hospital instead of calling an ambulance. He was hardly a “champion of women’s rights,” despite the article’s claims.
Warren Hern and Bonnie Andrikopoulos, eds. Abortion in the 70s: Proceedings of the Western Regional Conference on Abortion, Denver, Colorado, February 27 – 29, 1976 (New York: National Abortion Federation, 1977) 48
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