What We Are Debating When We Debate Late-Term Abortions
You know what the debate over late-term abortions would benefit from? Some data. Which Dana McCourt provides:
Let’s look at the late-term abortions. Only 1.1% are after more than 21 weeks. 21 weeks is about two weeks shy of the lower-end of viability. 21 weeks is still in the second trimester. We can safely assume that the number of abortions in the third trimester is even smaller, especially because abortion after 24 weeks is generally not permitted by law except in cases of danger to the health of the mother and the fetus.
Let’s have some more context. One commonly-cited reason for abortion past the first trimester is the presence of fetal abnormalities, including Down syndrome and other fetal abnormalities. These are usually detected on an ultrasound and confirmed via amniocentesis. Amniocentesis is somewhat risky, so it’s usually performed only if there’s a reason to suspect an abnormality. And the usual time to find an abnormality would be during the second trimester ultrasound, usually around 18-20 weeks, sometimes a bit earlier. It seems reasonable to conclude that many of the abortions performed post 21-weeks are due to the discovery of some sort of anomaly. Moreover, medicine can’t catch these abnormalities significantly sooner than they are discovered.[...]
At 1.2 million abortions per year, 1.1% is about 13,200 abortions. I mention this because late-term abortion looms much larger as a reason to oppose abortion than it should given its rarity. It’s also important to note that past 24 weeks, the laws do not permit abortion that isn’t tied to reasons of life and health (fetal or maternal). People primarily worried about late-term abortion need to understand what it is that they’re worried about, understand that what they’re worried about is already heavily regulated, and then need to make the case from there, based on the cases that actually occur.
June 5, 2009; 9:01 AM ET
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