Just as they did with the partial-birth abortion ban, abortion activists are quibbling about terminology in a debate that they fear they will lose.
The women’s magazine Cosmopolitan published a piece this week attacking the the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill to prohibit late-term abortions after 20 weeks when strong scientific evidence indicates unborn babies can feel pain. The U.S. House is scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday.
The piece attempted to stir up doubt about the legislation by attacking the term “late-term abortion.” Writer Robin Marty spoke with an expert at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who said the way many people use the term is not medically accurate.
Hal Lawrence, M.D., executive vice president and CEO of ACOG, said: “A full-term pregnancy is defined as a pregnancy with a gestational age between 39 weeks and 40 weeks, 6 days. ‘Late term’ refers to a pregnancy with a gestational age of 41 weeks to 41 weeks, 6 days. Abortions are not performed at ‘late term.’”
Of course, very few non-doctors probably actually know the exact medical definition. Lawrence also did not provide any proof that there are no abortions performed at that late stage. Several states still do not have any restrictions on when an abortion can occur.
Public debate over abortion is already extremely challenging. But it’s even more challenging once it becomes clear that the terms being used have different meanings depending on the audience. It is impossible to have a meaningful dialogue if the public believes experts, activists, and politicians are discussing the moral issues of aborting fully developed baby just week or two away from an uncomplicated delivery and a long, healthy life, when abortion opponents are actually referring to a period in gestation where live delivery will at a minimum require months of hospitalization and potentially years of special medical care – in the very rare case that the baby survives at all.
Clarity certainly is important in understanding any issue, but those promoting the bill have been very clear about when it would ban abortions and why. The intention is to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy (22 weeks gestation), a very clear, well-understood line.
The backers also explain why: By 20 weeks of pregnancy, there are strong, scientifically-backed indications that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain. The 20-week point also is right on the edge of current viability. Thanks to modern technology, babies are able to survive outside the womb at earlier and earlier stages.
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Micah Pickering is the face of the bill. The little boy was born in 2012 at 20 weeks, and today he is thriving. The bill would give even more babies like him the chance to live and thrive.
Cosmo’s issue with the term “late-term abortion” is just a petty attempt to try to tear apart legislation that makes a lot of sense to all but the most radical abortion supporters in the United States. Abortion activists should be clear about what they want in this fight: Full support of abortion for any reason up to birth and taxpayer funding of it.
Marty’s conclusion hinted at eugenic reasons for opposing the bill as well. She wrote:
Because if we continue to allow abortion opponents to mislead the public and erase the distinction between a developing fetus and a viable baby ready to be born, then we allow them to completely erase the physical and emotional needs of the pregnant person, as well as any ability for them to make the medical decisions that are best for them, their families and, yes, sometimes even the fetus itself.
In other words, killing a viable unborn baby capable of feeling pain by dismembering or poisoning them in a brutal abortion procedure could very well be better than a baby living with a disability. Of course, abortion activists would say that “dismembering” and “poisoning” also are not medical terms, but they accurately describe what happens to an unborn baby in an abortion procedure.
With Republican majorities in both houses and a promise from President Donald Trump to sign the bill, there are high hopes that the legislation will pass. Abortion activists have not challenged similar laws passed in 16 states, and many believe the Supreme Court may uphold the law if they did.