During the State of the Union address on Feb. 5, 2019, President Trump asked Congress to ban late-term abortion. He framed his appeal as a reaction against New York’s Reproductive Health Act — which signed into law on Jan. 22 — and Virginia’s HB 2491 bill, which received support from Gov. Ralph Northam.
Of course, Trump didn’t bring up those events without adding his personal trademark: distorting factual information.
Trump accused New York’s lawmakers of “(cheering) with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”
Here is what New York’s Reproductive Health Act actually does: It legalizes abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy if either the procedure is necessary to protect mother’s life or health or the fetus can no longer survive outside the womb. The health exception comes directly out of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, and 39 other states already allow late-term abortions under the same circumstances. The viability exception covers cases where a mother discovers that her fetus is not viable only later in pregnancy. In these cases, pro-lifers do not really have any grounds for objection because any debatable sign of “life” has already been, sadly, lost.
The point is, there is nowhere in the language of the law that explicitly or implicitly allows doctors to rip a baby out of its mother’s womb right before birth. In fact, the standard medical protocol is to induce labor or perform a C-section, which, of course, is done with anesthesia.
Trump also alleged that Northam “basically stated he would execute a baby after birth,” referring to the governor’s support for his state’s HB 2491 bill on radio.
Among the proposals in the HB 2491 bill, two are particularly controversial. One reduces the number of doctors needed to determine whether continuing the pregnancy would “substantially and irremediably impair” the mother’s health or endanger her life from three physicians to just one. The other removes the “substantially and irremediably” qualifier, lowering the burden of proof. When Northam voiced his support for the bill, he said that a woman should be able to have a third trimester abortion when a deformed fetus is nonviable, in which case the infant would be delivered and resuscitated if desired.
There is no mention of the execution of a baby after birth.
However, it could be possible that Trump was simply exaggerating his descriptions in order to evoke more visceral emotional reactions. If he does sincerely oppose New York’s law, Virginia’s bill and late-term abortions in general on the grounds of morality, I applaud him for having principle.
Nevertheless, I oppose a complete ban of “late-term abortions” — which, as usually defined in state laws, are ones that occur past 20 weeks after fertilization.
I think there’s a serious misunderstanding that pro-lifers like Trump have about the pro-choicers who support late-term abortions.
No one wants to have a late-term abortion. And pro-choicers understand that.
As Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president of health policy at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists puts it like this: the two types of situations that would necessitate a late-term abortion are “lethal fetal anomalies or threats to the health of the mother.”
Consider the former case: By the time a late-term abortion is deemed necessary, you have already committed to bringing your baby into the world. You’ve likely made a special room for the baby you are expecting, decked with toys and painted in pretty colors, with a crib that sits waiting for its owner. When the doctor tells you that your baby has a lethal fetal anomaly, you break down in tears. They put it in medical terms: It is nonviable. But you know what they mean: your future love and joy is dead. You go on eBay, and type out the words: For sale, baby shoes, never worn.
Consider the latter case: You have a loving husband and your career is on an uptick. You’ve told your baby boy that he’s getting a baby sister so that he’s not lonely anymore when Daddy and Mommy are away at work. When the doctor tells you that you could die if you try to continue the pregnancy, you are torn. You want your baby to be born, but you are afraid. Not merely for yourself, but for the family that you’ll leave behind. You ask yourself, “Will they be okay? Will God forgive me?”
In either case, the mother does not want to lose her baby, but what is the alternative? If the baby is nonviable, that life is lost. To force her to carry what will seem to her the symbol of her own sadness around for rest of the pregnancy would be a cruel joke. If her health or life is in danger, the future does not bode well. The conditions she faces could kill her baby but spare her, leaving her with regret and guilt that never goes away, or, the conditions could take her life, robbing her of her future and her loved ones –– ironically, perhaps that of the child itself –– of her company.
There’s nothing easy about making the decision to have a late-term abortion.
But if you, Mr. Trump and other pro-life advocates, ban women from making such decisions, then you are essentially condemning them to fates so tragic and cruel that you have departed from your good intentions.
There are no murderers here — there are only victims of circumstance. Those women have already suffered so much. Just let them be.