Late Abortion Lies: They're Only Done for Health Reasons
Abortion advocates claim that late abortions are done only for reasons of severe fetal abnormality, or threats to the life or health of the mother. How valid is that claim? Not very.
Let's look at the evidence.
The most famous denunciation of the claim was by Ron Fitzsimmons, head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers. Said Fitzsimmons:
"When you're a doctor who does these abortions and the leaders of your movement appear before Congress and go on network news and say these procedures are done in only the most tragic of circumstances, how do you think it makes you feel? You know they're primarily done on healthy women and healthy fetuses, and it makes you feel like a dirty little abortionist with a dirty little secret."
A report on late extraction abortions, done by a New Jersey newspaper, looks at the situation in one of the abortion facilities they polled:
"We have an occasional amnio abnormality, but it's a minuscule amount," said one of the doctors at Metropolitan Medical, an assessment confirmed by another doctor there. "Most are Medicaid patients, black and white, and most are for elective, not medical, reasons: people who didn't realize, or didn't care, how far along they were. Most are teenagers."
On September 17, 1996, Barbara Vobejda and David Brown reported in the Washington Post:
"It is possible - and maybe even likely - that the majority of these abortions are performed on normal fetuses, not on fetuses suffering genetic or other developmental abnormalities. Furthermore, in most cases where the procedure is used, the physical health of the woman whose pregnancy is being terminated is not in jeopardy…Instead, the "typical" patients tend to be young, low income women, often poorly educated or naive, whose reasons for waiting so long to end their pregnancies are rarely medical."
US News & World Report investigated abortion supporters' claims about late abortions. In looking at the reasons for late abortions, the report said:
[T]he survey undermines another claim sometimes made by abortion-rights groups, at least with regard to the D&X issue: that late abortions are usually done for medical reasons, particularly to protect the life and/or health of the mother. Only 9.4 percent of late abortions at clinics that responded to the U.S. News survey were done for medical reasons, either to protect the mother's health (a rare situation) or, more commonly, because of fetal defects such as spina bifida and Down's syndrome. For the handful of very late abortions, those after 26 weeks, medical reasons do predominate. But for post-20-week abortions generally, about 90 percent were classified by the clinics as "nonmedical."
Source: When abortions come late in a pregnancy
These reports jibe with discussions at National Abortion Federation meetings. Members lament that women coming in for late abortions usually have no really good reason for having a late abortion. They have abortions for the same reasons women have early abortions; they simply delayed scheduling the abortion. Reasons for the delay include trying to keep the pregnancy a secret, denying the pregnancy, having irregular periods and therefore noticing the pregnancy later, and just taking that long to come to a decision.
What about more scientific research? There has been little, but JAMA did publish an article looking at second trimester abortions, between 13 and 27 weeks of gestation. On reasons for these later abortions, the authors said:
Little research has been done on reasons for induced abortion in the second trimester. In 1987, the AGI conducted a survey of patients in 30 abortion facilities in which at least 400 abortions were performed annually and in which they performed abortions at 16 or more weeks of gestation. The 30 abortion facilities represented each of the 4 regions of the country and the average patient response rate was 80%. Of the 1900 women in the survey, 420 (22.1%) had been pregnant for 16 weeks or more. When asked about the most important reasons for their delay in having an abortion, 71% reported that they did not recognize that they were pregnant or misjudged gestational age. Forty-eight percent had difficulty arranging for the abortion (particularly raising money), 33% were afraid to tell their parents or partner, and 24% reported great difficulty deciding to have an abortion. Women having an abortion later in pregnancy were also more likely to report personal health problems, possible fetal health problems, rape, or incest.
Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, "Late Term Abortion"
The article did not note how much more likely these women were to report "personal health problems, possible fetal health problems, rape, or incest." The article also noted that 22.1% of the patients were more than 16 weeks pregnant, but did not note what proportion was over 20 weeks pregnant, or if there were differences in the reasons for delay among patients according to gestational age. The article likewise did not address why the women were aborting -- just why they had delayed having the abortion.
We can also look at a Planned Parenthood "Fact Sheet." It explains "Various Factors Require Women to Have Abortions after the First Trimester." The reasons given are: geographic and "provider shortage," meaning that the woman takes time to arrange to travel to an abortionist; financial (the woman takes time to get the money for the abortion); and "legal restrictions" (delays while arranging to evade parental involvement laws). Medical indications are given brief mention, almost as an afterthought.
The "Fact Sheet" also notes "Individual or Personal Reasons for Postponing Abortion Past 12 Weeks:"
Severe fetal abnormality and maternal health problems clearly rank low in the reasons for having abortions after the first trimester.
But surely, you might say, these are second trimester abortions, not post-viability abortions. Perhaps. It's difficult to tell -- partly because of dishonest reporting. Since the abortionist himself is the one who diagnoses gestational age, and since the evidence -- the fetus -- is destroyed after the abortion, researchers are left taking the abortionists' word for how far advanced an abortion patient's pregnancy really was.
We can look at some specific abortionists. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas, is famous for taking on the very late abortion cases for social reasons, such as incest or teen pregnancy. Although he officially says that he only does late abortions for the health of the mother or for extreme fetal abnormalities, former employee Luhra Tivis says otherwise:
"As I learned the medical terms, spoke to patients and their families, and noticed the lucrative cash flow, it began to dawn on me that something was horribly wrong. More than 95% of these late-term abortions killed perfectly healthy babies, not just the deformed babies as Dr. Tiller claimed. Then Dr. Tiller himself explained to me his dishonest sonogram reading method, and required me to lie to patients over the phone, and I could not ignore the fact that nearly all of Tiller’s supposedly 2nd trimester abortions were actually 3rd trimester abortions. This was too repulsive, too much even for my liberal, pro-choice beliefs to condone."
An Atlanta hospital was in trouble over their very iffy late-abortion practice. Midtown Hospital in Atlanta, the plaintiff that challenged Georgia's late abortion law, was chastised by the state when it was discovered that their late second-trimester abortions were probably illegal third trimester abortions. Midtown claimed that these abortions were for fetal abnormalities, but would not verify diagnoses either before or after abortions.
Midtown Hospital and George Tiller aren't the only ones squeaking third-trimester abortions under the limit by pretending that the pregnancy isn't really that far advanced. Usually these very late abortionists call attention to themselves by failing to kill the fetus -- or by injuring or killing the mother.
National Abortion Federation member Abu Hayat made headlines when he performed an abortion on Rosa Rodriguez, who thought that she was 12 weeks pregnant. She was actually 32 weeks pregnant. The baby, Ana Rosa, was born missing her right arm, which had been pulled off in the abortion attempt. More recently in Ohio, D&X guru Martin Haskell accidentally delivered a live baby during a partial birth abortion (the child was placed for adoption). John Biskind in Arizona got in trouble when a fetus the mother thought was in the second trimester turned out to be a term infant.
Only after the death of Magdalena Rodriguez -- who was 30 weeks pregnant -- was it discovered that Suresh Gandotra was doing abortions regardless of how far advanced the pregnancy was. And Steve Brigham was caught doing elective third-trimester abortions in his office after a woman had to be hospitalized because he'd botched her 26-week abortion. Doctors like Gandotra and Brigham are assuredly not reporting their third-trimester abortions, since they'd been performing them illegally.
So when we're talking about late abortions, we're dealing not only with abortions where the woman knows that she's far advanced into the pregnancy. We're also dealing with women who simply trusted their abortionists to obey the law.
The claim that late abortionists are just conscientious doctors trying to help sickly women, or women carrying moribund fetuses, is a smoke screen set up to divert attention away from the ugly late abortion trade.
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