I’ve always been pro-choice/pro-women’s-freedom, but I was at one point opposed to late-term abortions. Why? Because I didn’t know the facts. I thought late term abortions occurred because women were too stupid/fickle to make the decision earlier. I bought into the so-called pro-life movement’s claim that there were these awful, barbaric women out there deliberately waiting until they were 6 months along before having a nearly-viable fetus brutally destroyed.
The truth is that only 1.3% (CDC, 2011) of abortions occur after 20 weeks, and these are usually the situations that deserve the most compassion and the most respect for the difficult and painful choices a woman sometimes has to make. Though there are no reliable statistics for why women choose to have late-term abortions, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) cites “illnesses of women and fetal anomalies” as major factors.
Of course, Georgia and, y’know, the entire federal government are working to remove women from the equation. On April 2, Georgia passed a bill affectionately referred to the “Women as Livestock” bill. Rep. Terry England famously stated that if livestock have to "deliver calves, dead or alive," then a woman carrying a dead fetus after 20 weeks, or one not expected to survive, should have to do so as well. Because if money/technology prevent farmers from showing compassion to animals, why should a government full of men have to respect the basic human rights of women? Naturally, the bill does not include exemptions for the woman’s health, rape or incest. In Georgia, they love their incest.
On October 13, 2011, the US House voted 251 to 170 to pass a bill that prohibits hospitals that receive federal funds (not the abortion-funding kind, those don’t exist, as I’ve pointed out before) cannot perform a late-term abortion, even if it is necessary to save a woman’s life. The bill also removes the requirement that hospitals without the facilities to perform an abortion transfer those women who need life-saving abortions to a different provider. Women can literally be forced to die on the floor, rather than be provided with a life-saving, still-legal and medically-necessary procedure.
These are the precedents we’re allowing to be set. In the name of “religion” and “unborn rights.”
Another JAMA article states that “other risk factors include young age, low educational attainment, having had a sexually transmitted disease, and ambivalence about the decision to abort.” Oddly enough, the restrictions and limitations Republicans have enacted to discourage abortions (abstinence-only education, requirements to visit ‘crisis centers,’ coercion through forced ultrasounds, etc.) actually contribute to later-term abortions. Go figure.
An abortion position paper from Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada very succinctly states the point that everyone here seems to miss:
Abortion opponents target rare cases of late term abortion, describing it in horrific detail, to evoke an emotional response in listeners. Their ultimate goal is to restrict all abortion rights. What these lobbyists strategically fail to mention, however, is that banning late term abortions would force women pregnant with dying fetuses to give birth at great risk to their own health, undermining both the rights of women and the medical authority of doctors.
Late term abortions are more heart-rending, yes, because the fetus is further developed, but the numbers show that women are not selfishly waiting until the last possible minute and then heartlessly deciding to murder an innocent baby. These are medical decisions made by women and their health care providers – legislators have no right to be involved in those decisions. Access to basic health care and human rights is even more important when the woman’s life is actually in danger.