What Donald Trump Got Wrong About Abortion

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
·Contributing Writer

Donald Trump took on Hillary Clinton’s position on abortion during the third and final presidential debate Wednesday evening, suggesting that during the ninth month of pregnancy, a full-term fetus can be “ripped” out of its mother’s womb.

Here’s what Trump said:

“I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now you can say that’s OK and Hillary can say that’s OK, but it’s not OK with me. Because based on what she’s saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb on the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable. … Honestly, nobody has business doing what I just said, doing that as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth. Nobody has that.”

Related: Clinton and Trump Clash Early Over Abortion

Trump’s comments were quickly taken to task by medical experts on Twitter, and one Canadian ob-gyn, Jennifer Gunter, M.D., was widely retweeted.

Gunter was quick to point out that what Trump described during the debate does not reflect the reality of what late-term abortion actually is.

Late-term abortions — or those performed after 20 weeks gestational age — are incredibly rare. They are usually performed when there is a life-threatening fetal anomaly or a severe risk to the health of the mother. “The reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under complex circumstances — the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available,” according to Planned Parenthood.

Eighty-nine percent of all abortions occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. And only 1.2 percent of all abortions in the United States occur after 21 weeks. Furthermore, 43 states — an overwhelming majority — presently ban abortion after a certain point in the pregnancy that is often tied to fetal viability outside the womb, sometime in the third trimester.

Related: My Personal Late-Term Abortion Scare

As Clinton put it during the debate in reply to Trump’s statement: “That is not what happens in these cases, and using that kind of scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate. … This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make. And I do not believe the government should be making it. … I can tell you the government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith and with medical advice, and I will stand up for that right.”

As an obstetrician-gynecologist who performs abortions told Yahoo last year, much of the misperception around late-term abortion — which is often referred to by anti-choice legislators and activists as a “partial-birth” abortion — is tied to the movement that might be seen in a fetus after termination. As this physician explained: “That’s just how nerves work. … At the gestational ages at which abortions are done, the nervous system is not developed enough to have there be any cognitive sensation.”

And she goes on to say that the much-touted argument of “fetal pain” is inaccurate.

“Yes, the nervous system is starting to develop, but it’s not at a point where it can be perceived and responded to,” the physician noted. “The body of literature around this is pretty consistent, scientifically.”

Bottom line: Though Congress continues to attempt to pass a 20-week abortion ban, medical experts agree that all abortion care is necessary reproductive health care — a fact that seven out of 10 Americans soundly agree on.

Related: ‘What Kind of Mother Is 8 Months Pregnant and Wants an Abortion?’

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