The issue of late-term abortion is one that can make even those who identify as pro-choice uncomfortable. This discomfort is understandable; the rhetoric surrounding abortion in general, and particularly late-term abortion, is riddled with fear-mongering and horror stories. Donald Trump demonstrated this in the final presidential debate. When asked about late-term abortion, Trump claimed, “You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb on the ninth month on the final day.”
Donald Trump’s depiction of late-term abortion, although we hear it so often, is far from accurate. From a medical standpoint, late-term abortion is usually defined as electing to end a pregnancy that is 20 weeks or further along, as 20 weeks marks the halfway point of a pregnancy. These abortions are sometimes described using the term “partial birth abortions.” However, this term is purely political (not medical), and was created by the National Right to Life Committee, making it a deeply partisan depiction of abortion. The medical term for the procedure used for most abortions that occur after 16 weeks is dilation and evacuation, a legal and safe medical procedure. Additionally, according to the Guttmacher Institute, only 1 percent of abortions are performed at 21 weeks or later. Within that 1 percent are people who are forced to make heartbreaking decisions about their pregnancies.
An example of what the heartbreaking decision to have a late-term abortion may look like is Lindsey Averill’s experience. Lindsey and her husband Randy were thrilled to be having a baby. At 21 weeks, they were excited to see an ultrasound that would finally show their child’s hands, fingers and toes. This excitement quickly turned to devastation when they were informed that their child’s brain was not fully developed and the vessels running into her heart were fused. There was no way the child would survive once outside the womb. Lindsey made the decision to end her pregnancy at 22 weeks, and was forced to fly all the way from Florida to New York to receive the procedure in a hospital rather than at a clinic in South Florida surrounded by picketers who yelled and heckled any woman walking inside. As difficult as it was, Lindsey says that her ability to have a late-term abortion was a blessing, and that she would never make a different choice.
As you can see, late-term abortion does not at all look like what Donald Trump chose to portray in the debate. In fact, that kind of rhetoric (which is so often utilized by the anti-choice movement) makes the people who need to have late-term abortions look like murderers, when they are not. It makes the medical professionals who provide these crucial services look violent, when they are not.
It is imperative that we fight back against this harmful rhetoric. We cannot allow fear-mongering when something as crucial as bodily autonomy is at stake. Laws should be made using facts and the real lived experiences of the American people, not with hateful language, bias and sexism. Everyone who is able to vote in this election should use their political power to help protect the safety, autonomy and choice of all people.