Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Late-Term Abortions are For Medical Reasons. Today.

Ed Kilgore's now-two-week-old piece on the impossibility of a compromise on abortion rights reaches the right conclusion—that a political compromise on abortion would be primarily opposed from the right rather than the left (though the last time this was tried, during Bill Clinton's second term, it was brought down by a mostly-right-but-partially-left coalition). But it gets there through reasoning that relies on facts not in evidence:
Suppose it were possible to engineer a permanent national deal (it’s not, but just consider it as a thought experiment) wherein in exchange for a strictly enforced ban on post-viability abortions that didn’t involve direct threats to the life of the mother, we’d also start treating all forms of contraception and pre-viability abortions not only as legal, but as medical procedures that would be publicly funded just like other medical procedures, under normal (not prohibitive) inspection and regulatory regimes? I suspect a large number of pro-choice folk would go for that kind of deal, which isn’t that different from the situation in much of Europe. It would reflect the fact that most late-term abortions happen not because some bad girl has had sex and now finds motherhood inconvenient, but because she hasn’t had meaningful access to contraception, Plan B, or early-term abortions.

But would any antichoice activists go along with it? No. Because they don’t really care about late-term abortions other than as a lever to move public opinion away from legalized abortion generally.
My gripe here is that neither "some bad girl has had sex and now finds motherhood inconvenient" nor "she hasn't had meaningful access to contraception, Plan B, or early-term abortions" are the the root cause for most late-term abortions.

Just use your common sense. To carry a fetus to 26 weeks, you have endured first trimester morning sickness and other sickness, significant weight gain, increased fatigue, and myriad other discomforts. For crying out loud, if that's not evidence that someone is trying to have a kid, I don't know what is.

What's more, current constitutional law already allows states to put significant restrictions on late-term abortions, which they certainly do. Let's go all the way back to Roe v Wade itself (hang in there, legal pedants, we're getting to you):
For the stage subsequent to viability the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe [ban—ed.], abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother
Legal pedants will note that Roe's standards have been superseded by Planned Parenthood v Casey, which allows states even more leeway in enacting abortion-restricting legislation. As interpreted by current members of the Court, even if a regulation is arbitrary, not-medically sound, and amounts to a de facto ban on late-term abortions, it might still pass constitutional muster.

2nd trimester ultrasounds are usually performed at 16-20 weeks
of pregnancy. If the ultrasound reveals the possibility of certain fetal
anomalies, additional testing is needed to determine the exact
nature of the defect. Only then, if testing revealed a lethal or
significantly impairing defect, would the potential parent need to
consider terminating the pregnancy,
In reality, the remaining late-term abortion providers limit their practice primarily to cases where the patient is at serious risk of death or injury themselves, or where the patient is carrying a fetus with a severe abnormalities—something that's either lethal or would grossly impair their quality of life. You can read more about this in Esquire's lengthy profile of Colorado late-term abortion provider Warren Hernn.

At the same time that advances in medicine have pushed fetal viability earlier and earlier, other advances have improved our ability to detect fetal defects. Some of these abnormalities cannot be detected until later in the pregnancy. To have the legislature substitute its judgement for those of the parents and medical professionals is to consign them to the potentially much more emotionally painful experience of giving birth to a severely deformed child and having it die within the first few years of its life.
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