On Tuesday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham introduced the ‘‘Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions” Act, which would ban abortion nationally at 15 weeks.
And while there’s a lot to be said about how this bill blows up the flimsy illusion that Republicans want to leave abortion up to states, I want to focus on the phrase “late-term abortion.” Because, to be frank here, it’s total nonsense.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “late-term abortion” has “no clinical or medical significance.” When talking about pregnancy, the phrase “late-term” refers to the period after 41 weeks of pregnancy, according to ACOG. But to be clear, abortions do not occur at this stage of pregnancy.
For everyone doing the math here, yes, 41 weeks is a long way from the 15 weeks Sen. Graham and others are calling “late-term abortions.” Even the primary basis for making 15 weeks the cut-off doesn’t really make a ton of sense medically.
The central assertion of the bill is that at 15 weeks, a fetus can feel pain. Except, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health care research organization, that isn’t true. In reality, the general medical consensus is that a fetus can’t feel pain until about 29-30 weeks because their brains aren’t developed enough, according to Guttmacher.
It’s also worth noting that only 11 percent of abortions occur after 13 weeks (which is around the end of the first trimester, not 15 weeks). Many of these abortions occur after 13 weeks because parents discover serious fetal anomalies that don’t show up earlier in pregnancy. In other cases, patients report delaying care because there are no clinics near them, or because they’re unable to afford it earlier in their pregnancy, according to Guttmacher.
So if like “late-term” abortion has no medical basis, where does it come from?
Scare politics, duh!
A CNN interview with Dr. Jennifer Conti, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University, probably sums it up best.
‘“Late-term,” is an invention of anti-abortion extremists to confuse, mislead and increase stigma,” says Dr. Conti.