With Iowa and Tennessee on the verge of becoming the 18th and 19th states to protect babies in the womb after 20 weeks’ gestation, and noise being made in New Mexico about that state’s anything-goes attitude about third-trimester abortion, it’s time Americans face up to reality: Late-term abortion is legal, it’s not rare and it’s not done solely to save the life of the mother or end the life of a baby deemed “incompatible with life.”
Late-term abortion is an everyday occurrence, often performed on healthy mothers carrying healthy babies. Approximately 12,000 babies suffer the terrible death of a post-20-week abortion annually in the United States. That’s a minimum of 32 times per day, 365 days a year.
If you doubt third-trimester abortion really happens, please consider the undercover phone call commissioned by Priests for Life. Not only does our caller encounter no resistance when she says she wants to abort her baby at 33 weeks, but she is assured the state of New Mexico will likely pay for it.
While many Americans believe – or would like to believe – that the federal partial-birth abortion ban did away with late-term abortion, that is not the case.
The 2003 law – upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart 10 years ago – outlawed "intact D&E," in which an abortionist removes the baby intact by dilating a mother’s cervix, then pulling the entire body except the head through the birth canal and finally puncturing the child’s brain with scissors and pulling out the collapsed skull.
This procedure is now illegal, but is still being performed. In the first undercover video released by the Center for Medical Progress, a Planned Parenthood abortionist comes very close to describing a partial-birth abortion to get an intact calvarium – that’s the baby’s head.
But intact D&E is just one of the gruesome procedures used to kill fully formed viable human beings.
An induction abortion, performed for most third-trimester pregnancies, often begins with the injection of a deadly poison – usually digoxin – into the heart of the baby. Dilators are then placed into the mother’s cervix, allowing it to open over the course of several days. The abortion ends with labor and finally, the delivery of a stillborn baby.
A dismemberment abortion is the most commonly used procedure for second-trimester terminations. Using a tool called a Sopher clamp, an abortionist repeatedly enters a mother’s womb and pulls out whatever is nearest its grasping claw – a leg, a torso, the head. Media outlets often refer to this as “so-called dismemberment abortion,” with scare quotes indicating it’s really not that bad. But it is that bad.
While the most extreme and strident pro-abortion groups demand taxpayer-funded abortion throughout pregnancy, the interesting truth about late-term abortion is that most Americans oppose it.
In a recent Marist poll, nearly three out of four Americans said they would like to see significant restrictions placed on abortion. Of those who identify as pro-choice, only 26 percent said abortion should be available throughout pregnancy, while 20 percent said it should be legal only for six months, and another 33 percent said it should be restricted to the first three months.
Interestingly, two percent of the pro-choice respondents said abortion should never be legal – suggesting that the label “pro-choice” is virtually meaningless.
Despite the fact that most Americans want to end late-term abortion, it is still very much with us. So what do we do to end this brutality tolerated in only a handful of nations, including China and North Korea?
For starters, we have to reach out to those who call themselves pro-choice but who, like us, want late-term abortion abolished. If there is any common ground to be found in the divisive abortion issue, this is where it will be.
We can end late-term abortion. God help us if we don’t accomplish this soon, and then move on to protect all children in the womb at every stage.
Father Frank Pavone is the national director of Priests for Life.