The following post is adapted from Secular Pro-Life's resources, and an article by the extraordinary lawyer and human rights advocate, Kelsey Hazzard. Additional information regarding Massachusetts provided by C.J. Williams.
Despite conventional wisdom, there's zero quantifiable data to support the idea that all or even most late-term abortions are medically necessary.
Defining our terms.
First, the phrase "late-term abortion" is ill-defined. We've had past posts where we were including anything after the first trimester, but to be more conservative, this post is only for abortions performed at 21 weeks or later. [Update 2/8/20: some complain the term "late-term abortion" is not a medical term and/or is made up by pro-lifers. See this thread for examples of abortion providers, Guttmacher, and the media using the phrase "late-term abortion" over the years.]
Second, when we say "medically necessary" we're referring to abortions where the reasons cited were risk to the woman's life, risk to the woman's health, or fetal abnormalities.
Objections to the "medically necessary" definition.
We understand that many pro-life people object to characterizing some or all of these situations as "medically necessary abortions." Some people don't consider a procedure that destroys a fetus an "abortion" if the procedure is done to save the woman's life. Some don't believe there are any scenarios where a woman's life or health is better protected by late-term abortion than by induction of labor or c-section. Some view abortion due to fetal abnormalities as a type of involuntary euthanasia, not medically necessary to the woman and not clearly in the best interest of the fetus. Some especially object to calling abortions "medically necessary" for fetal abnormalities because not all such fetal abnormalities are life-threatening to the fetus (possibly the most controversial example being the very high rate of abortionwhen the fetus has Down syndrome).
SPL recognizes some relevant points here (click through to "Further Reading" for more thoughts on these subjects). But for this blog post, we leave all that aside. Here we're not debating whether and when abortion is justified for maternal health and life or for fetal abnormalities. We're demonstrating that even if you believe all of these reasons constitute medically necessary abortions, most late-term abortions are still not medically necessary.
In reality, most women seek 21+ week abortions for non-medical reasons, such as:
- Not realizing sooner that they were pregnant,
- Struggling to find the time and money for later abortion procedures (which are more complicated and expensive than earlier procedures), and
- Difficulty deciding whether they wanted to continue carrying the pregnancy.