The House of Representatives will vote this week a pro-life bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Should the bill become law, just how many abortions would be stopped?
National Right to Life Legislative Director Douglas Johnson has more information on that elusive number. He also provides the shocking details that there are hundreds of abortion practitioners willing to do abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy — a number that comes from a top pro-abortion research group.
“Late abortions are not “rare.” At least 275 facilities offer abortions past 20 weeks fetal age,” Johnson says in a letter the National Right to Life Committee issued to Congress today.
The anniversary of the conviction of late-term abortion practitioner Kermit Gosnell is this week and, at that time, Johnson provided more information on just how many abortion facilities do abortions after 20 weeks.
“Because of publicity surrounding the trial of Kermit Gosnell and subsequent revelations about other abortionists, many Americans are becoming aware for the first time that abortions are frequently performed late in pregnancy on babies who are capable of being born alive, and on babies who will experience great pain while being killed,” Johnson said then.
Below is a portion of a memo Johnson wrote during the first Congressional battle on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that answers the questions on the number of late abortions and late-term abortion practitioners:
In 1995-96, many mainstream media outlets reported as unvarnished fact the claims of pro-abortion advocacy groups that partial-birth abortions were very “rare” and performed only in acute medical circumstances. These claims were later proven false by congressional investigators and investigative journalists, and were even ultimately repudiated by the head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers (NCAP), who described the claims as a concocted “party line.”
NCAP Executive Director Ron Fitzsimmons admitted to the New York Times that the partial-birth abortion method was used 3,000-5,000 times annually, and “in the vast majority of cases” on “a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along” (New York Times, Feb. 26, 1997).
However, the same pattern of eagerness to minimize painful late abortions is found in some recent media coverage surrounding the Gosnell trial and revelations regarding other late-abortion practitioners. News stories often assert that late abortions are “rare” and sometimes assert that late abortions usually involve serious medical problems of the mother or fetus. Yet these “facts” are not supported by hard data, and indeed run contrary to much of the evidence that is available.
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The phrase “late-term abortion” has no fixed legal or medical meaning. Its use in news stories, without specific definitions, can be misleading and distort the debate. This distortion is in part deliberately engendered by pro-abortion groups, who use the phrase “late-term” as code for “third-trimester,” meaning after 27 weeks LMP (about the seventh month and later).
However, most Americans probably would agree that any abortion performed after the point that a live birth might occur (about 18 weeks in the LMP system, or the beginning of the fifth month) is a “late abortion,” and would surely agree that any abortion in the second half of pregnancy (after 20 weeks LMP) is a “late abortion.” The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection applies protection beginning at 22 weeks LMP (20 weeks fetal age), about the beginning of the sixth month. Beginning just one week later, one-fourth to one-third of premature babies survive long-term with good neonatal care.
So, how many abortions are performed in the U.S. on pain-capable unborn children, after 22 weeks LMP (20 weeks fetal age)? NRLC’s Johnson said: “Nobody has a good handle on how many late abortions are really occurring, but there is growing evidence that they are far more common than most people want to think.”
The Gosnell case and recent hidden-camera videos issued by the organization Live Action provide further evidence that a great deal of the late abortion iceberg is below the water. Some of the jurisdictions with the most liberal abortion policies have no reporting requirements — for example, California, Maryland, and D.C. — or do not collect data on stage of pregnancy (Florida, for example). Other jurisdictions have reporting requirements but don’t enforce them — the Grand Jury report on Gosnell said (page 171) that between 2000 and 2010, Gosnell reported only one second-trimester abortion to the state. Yet it appears (pp. 26-27, 88) that Gosnell probably performed thousands of second-trimester and third-trimester abortions during that decade. Multiple other practitioners who perform large volumes of late abortions have also failed to report or not been required to report.
A 2008 study, “Abortion in the United States: Incidence and Access to Services, 2005,” released by the Guttmacher Institute (which was originally founded as a special affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, currently the nation’s largest abortion provider) found that, in 2005, there were at least 1,787 abortion providers in the United States. Of the 1,787 providers, the study found that “[t]wenty percent of providers offered abortions after 20 weeks [LMP], and only 8% at 24 weeks [LMP]…” This translates to at least 300 abortion providers who will perform abortions after 20 weeks LMP and around 140 willing to perform abortions at 24 weeks LMP.
The 140 or more abortion providers who perform abortions at 22 weeks LMP and later would be the providers directly affected by H.R. 1797.