Column: Donald Trump fundamentally misunderstands late-term abortion
Two anonymous Pro-love Tucson advocates handing out informational pamphlets outside the Tucson Women's Center. Pro-love Tucson is a neutral group falling between Pro-life and Pro-choice, who only want to help women make an informed decision when considering abortion, and giving any support women going through this difficult time need. During the third presidential debate, Donald Trump made several troubling comments on late term abortion and brought the issue back into the national dialog.
Donald Trump might as well have announced in the final presidential debate last week that he fundamentally misunderstands the causes and circumstances of a late-term pregnancy termination.
In his defense, the concept is very nuanced and involved, and no two cases are exactly the same. The research and data on the subject is scattered and sparse, so it's difficult to fact-check this subject because it is highly driven by opinion.
But what Trump described in the debate—a procedure in which medical professionals would "take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother, just prior to the birth of the baby"—is not something that happens frequently, if ever.
Trump was referring to what is known commonly as a partial-birth abortion.
The actual procedure is medically known as an intact dilation and extraction, or D and X, procedure. The procedure can also be performed to remove a fetus that died in utero as a miscarriage and is very rarely utilized in late-term pregnancy termination. D and X procedures accounted for around 0.17 percent of all abortions at any point in pregnancy, as of the year 2000. Despite its extreme rarity, the procedure is still a major talking point in the abortion debate.
The term "partial-birth" is misleading. In an intact D and X procedure, the fetus is entirely delivered, not just part of the fetus. The fetus is not alive and is thus not "born," at all, but the delivery is complete. Alternatively to a D and X procedure, some women opt for an induction and a C-section. This is also a complete delivery procedure in which the fetus will either be removed alive or dead, not "partially born" by any means.
By calling the D and X procedure a "partial-birth," pro-life advocates and Trump are utilizing and presenting a false rhetoric that instills fear simply to incite an emotional reaction and gain support.
Perhaps the single most important detail about late-term abortions, such as the D and X procedure, is that a woman would virtually never opt to have one in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. There is always a health risk, often a life-or-death situation, associated with a pregnancy to be terminated in the late second or third trimesters.
In some cases, the fetus develops incorrectly and the condition is predicted to be incompatible with life. Carrying such a pregnancy to term would almost guarantee that the infant would spend its entire life suffering, only to die before even leaving the hospital. Delivering a child in this case, knowing full well that the child will only suffer and die, is much less humane than aborting the pregnancy. At least in abortion the child never has to feel that pain.
In other cases, it's the mother who is suffering from life-threatening pregnancy complications. There are plenty of conditions in which carrying the pregnancy to term would result in the death of the mother during the pregnancy or in delivery. Many of these conditions would place the fetus at risk as well, making it likely that both the mother and the fetus will not survive the pregnancy if she carried to term.
And yet, even after considering the prospect of a suffering newborn who would die in the ICU, or the prospect of a mother who will almost certainly lose her life as well as the child, pro-lifers will still argue that abortion should be entirely prohibited.
By preventing a woman from being able to save her own life—or from making a decision that prevents her child from ever feeling the extreme pain that would come from being born—the government would imply that the mother's life is less valuable than that of something that cannot live independently of her, nor will have the potential to live a good life.
I have no interest in judging women for getting abortions at any point during pregnancy, nor do I have interest in arguing whether an abortion constitutes murder.
But I do have an interest in arguing that women aren't having healthy pregnancies terminated at nine months. Fetuses aren't being ripped out of mothers' wombs at nine months as a back-up form of birth control. In late-term abortion, women are making the choice to save their lives and/or save their potential children from feeling pain.
The law has absolutely no place in this decision. Late-term abortions should always be a legal and available option for women in health-threatening and life-threatening situations.
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