A guest post by ninersgal.
My friend recently had a baby. Her pregnancy was difficult. She had gestational diabetes as well as preeclampsia. Her baby was delivered at 30 weeks because there were problems with the placenta. Despite all of those challenges, my friend’s baby went home from the hospital yesterday. Unlike many of her neighbors in the NICU, my goddaughter has had no complications. Her lungs have developed and she can breathe on her own. Her brain is developing normally. And although she was only 2 pounds when she was born, this little fighter is up to 5 pounds now. I see lots of courage and fist pumping in this girl’s future.
My friend got very lucky and had a successful delivery at 30 weeks. However, there were many moments during the last two weeks of her pregnancy where I wondered what would happen. If the doctor had told my friend that the health risks of continuing her pregnancy were too great (either for her, or for the baby) and abortion was her only option, I would have held her hand and supported her. That’s exactly what I did throughout her pregnancy. And if this were the path she needed to take, I would have helped her along the way.
All that being said, spending time in the NICU looking at all premature and struggling babies has given me a lot to think about in terms of late term abortion. Let me preface that statement by saying I support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion no matter what stage of pregnancy she is in, and no matter what her reason is. However, watching the babies in the NICU has helped me see things from the point of view of those who oppose “late term abortion.”
The general medical definition of “late term abortion” refers to abortions that occur after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Most abortions (88% to be exact) occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Late term abortion only accounts for 1.5% of abortion cases in the United States. So we need to remember that when the anti-choice crowd starts to focus on so-called “partial-birth abortions,” they’re intentionally trying to muddle the facts by harping on the least common denominator.
Some states are attempting to restrict abortion access by pushing the cut off date even earlier in pregnancy. In the state of Oklahoma, for example, an abortion is considered “late term” at 20 weeks, and is consequently illegal. However, a fetus at 20 weeks of gestational development is far different than a fetus at 30 weeks of gestational development. That’s a fact.
Let’s put the issue of gestational development aside for a minute and simply focus on the pregnant woman who needs an abortion. (I know . . . I know . . . always putting the woman first . . .) Abortions cost money. It may take a woman several weeks to scrape together the money to pay for an abortion. What happens if she’s at 21 weeks of pregnancy instead of 20? If she lives in Oklahoma, she’ll have to go out of state to get an abortion – raising the cost even more and delaying the date of her abortion even further. This is only one explanation for why women obtain late term abortions (one that 60% of women who obtained late term abortions cited as the reason for delaying their procedure), and it’s a very valid reason.
Back to the fetus. Any number of complications can arise late in pregnancy. I have tried to read articles from medical journals to learn what these health complications are, but I don’t understand the language. Fortunately, Jodi Jacobson provides a good summary of this at RH Reality Check. In my view, the compassionate choice in cases where a fetus has serious health issues is to terminate the pregnancy so that the baby doesn’t suffer when it is born.
I understand why folks support restrictions on “late term abortions.” Little babies in the nursery can definitely tug at your heartstrings – I’m not totally made of stone, ya’ll. However, I don’t support any restrictions on abortion, because it’s not my place to say what’s right or wrong for anyone else when it comes to their healthcare. I don’t need to know the reason why a woman obtains an abortion. All I need to know is if someone wants a hand to hold while they’re going through the process. Or if they need a ride to the clinic, or a couch to sleep on when they travel to get there.
What’s your take on “late term abortion?” I know there is a lot of debate within the pro-choice community about this topic, and I’m always interested in seeing things from another point of view. What factors have influenced your opinion? I’d love to chat with you about it.