Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton made an emotional case for late-term abortion in the last presidential debate:
“I have met with women who have, toward the end of their pregnancy, gotten the worst news one could get. That their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term. Or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy,” Clinton said. “You can regulate [late-term abortion] if you are doing so with the life and the health of the mother taken into account.”
Republican candidate Donald Trump followed up with a shocking response: “Based on what she is saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take baby and rip the baby out of the womb. In the ninth month. On the final day.” While doctors cannot legally perform abortion that late into gestation, Trump got one thing right as he finished: “That’s not acceptable.”
Clinton’s argument to allow late-term abortion when a pregnancy endangers the life and health of the mother is unacceptable. Data invalidates Clinton’s life-and-health-of-the-mother justification of late-term abortions. Her argument pertains to a tiny percentage of the 144,000 babies aborted during the second and third trimester each year.
Risk of the mother’s health is usually the first argument pro-choice supporters make when arguing for late-term abortion. Statistics show, however, that a pregnancy almost never endangers a mother’s health enough to merit a therapeutic abortion.
A study conducted by the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, Ireland considered more than 74,000 births over nine years. In total, 21 mothers passed away during pregnancy. Seven died from diseases unrelated to their pregnancy, and the remaining 14 did suffer from pregnancy complications. Of those complications, 11 could not have been foreseen and could not have been prevented by therapeutic abortion. Out of the three remaining women, only one would have benefited from therapeutic abortion.
This specific study shows the rare necessity of therapeutic abortion, and its results point toward the more general observation that cancer, the disease most often associated with the need for therapeutic abortion, occurs in only 0.1 percent of all pregnancies.
Pregnant women diagnosed with cancer are seldom presented the option of carrying their babies through treatment and to term, even though fetuses often tolerate chemotherapy, according to Dr. Mary Davenport, an obstetrician and gynecologist.
“With any serious maternal health problem, termination of pregnancy can be accomplished by inducing labor or performing a cesarean section, saving both mother and baby,” Davenport wrote in an essay for the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “If a mother needs radiation or chemotherapy for cancer, the mother’s treatment can be postponed until viability, or regimens can be selected that will be better tolerated by the unborn baby. In modern neonatal intensive care units 90 percent of babies at 28 weeks survive, as do a significant percentage of those at earlier gestations.”
The need for therapeutic abortion is minute, yet Clinton cites this as the reason to allow late-term abortion. She does not acknowledge the fact that 71 percent of women who aborted their babies after 13 weeks did not terminate their pregnancy earlier because they did not know they were pregnant, according to surveys conducted by the Guttmacher Institute.
Clinton also supports late term abortions when they can preserve quality of life for the mother, baby, and family. She references women who receive “the worst news one can get” later on in their pregnancy, and her empathy is appropriate.
The burden of finding out an unborn child may not live due to an abnormality or may live with a life-changing condition is unimaginable. Since the debate, stories like the personal account published in the New York Times just a week ago illustrate the heartbreaking choice a mother must make when she learns her child may not live through birth.
To compare the psychological damage of mothers who choose to abort for birth defects as opposed to carrying to term is difficult for lack of information. While statistics proving the higher risk of mental health problems post-abortion are readily available, no available study effectively compares these two situations.
The fact remains, however, that only 2 percent of late-term abortions are carried out due to birth defects, another infinitesimal proportion making up the majority of Clinton’s claim.
As the statistics show, Clinton’s main argument for late-term abortion ignores more than 90 percent of pregnancies terminated in the second and third trimester. She refuses to speak the truth about a policy that kills almost 150,000 babies every year — and in the words of Trump, that’s not acceptable.
Ms. Scheu is a junior studying French and journalism.