Why "Pro-Life" Advocates Love Late-Term Abortions
by Sherry F. Colb
Inspired by Justice Samuel Alito's (SA's) leaked opinion, I thought a lot about different kinds of abortions. Some, including medical abortions, take place very early in pregnancy. Others happen far later along. For Americans who do not take their position on abortion from religious doctrine, a late abortion is morally fraught in a way that an early abortion is not. Why? Because as a pregnancy progresses, the zygote, a simple one-celled organism like a paramecium, and a morula and blastula, clumps of undifferentiated tissue, grow into what increasingly looks like and acts like the baby it would eventually become. When the self-styled "pro-life" community march around with posters of allegedly aborted fetuses, you rarely see a picture of a zygote, blastula, or morula because no one sane would empathize with this reproductive tissue. Early abortions do not make for good copy. Indeed, an early abortion could look very much like a menstrual period.
So the "pro-life" folks need late abortions and photos (allegedly) of them to draw out a sense of empathy and outrage for the supposed "victims" of abortion. And what could be more upsetting for the viewer than seeing a metal instrument enter the uterus and tear a fully formed apparent baby limb from limb, followed by the crushing of that seeming baby's skull?
If all abortions took place very early in pregnancy, then the posters that urge forcible pregnancy and birth would have to either picture some cells (snore) or lie about what happens during an abortion. I would not ordinarily assume that a group of people is lying about their favorite topic except that I already know that they do. I recently watched Unplanned, a film that supposedly presented the truth about abortion. It involves a woman who worked at an abortion clinic but then saw what abortion really involved and switched sides on the issue. The lie? The overarching theme of the movie (which is absorbing if dishonest) was that the abortion clinic tries to pressure women who are unsure about whether to terminate into having the abortion so that the clinic can rake in the big bucks. In fact abortion providers often give women financial aid if they cannot afford to pay and almost any non-abortion medical practice will produce more profit and without risking the lives of the practitioners (because you never can tell when someone who is "pro-life" will decide to kill people who disagree with them). The big lie was the idea that people perform abortions for the great financial rewards. No one who does this work is in it for the cash. So if they lie about their adversaries' motives, then I cannot assume that they would tell the truth about early abortions.
Indeed, I know that they lie about early abortions because they typically draw no distinction between removing a clump of undifferentiated tissue early in pregnancy and pulling limbs from a fetus at 23 weeks along. Various states have, in their glee about the ugly gift that the Supreme Court will be giving them, passed laws criminalizing medication abortion. A medication abortion happens in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, and though SA uncritically cites the position that a heart beats at six weeks gestation, he is wrong about that, so he too is either lying or credulous. Embryos do not have hearts. What women hear at their six-weeks ultrasound is the sound of cardiac activity, pulsing cells that could eventually become part of the heart. If people who favor forcing unwanted pregnancy and birth on women had a moral sense that was in sync with that of people less religious than they, they would want women who will terminate their pregnancies to do so as early as possible. Most Americans feel far less comfortable with late abortions than with early ones.
Instead of facilitating early abortions (let alone facilitating contraception), the "pro-lifers" essentially force women who wish to terminate into a late abortion. How? By prohibiting the distribution of abortion medication. Unlike other forms of abortion, women (and trans men and nonbinary people) can use medication without involving a large amount of providers' time. Without medication, women must put their names on waiting lists at clinics that still terminate pregnancies—a small number once the Supreme Court fully invites "majorities" (ha) to legislate against abortion wherever they can.
I am hearing that women traveling from states where abortion will be illegal to states where it remains available will have to wait as long as six to eight weeks before they can see a provider. The strain on capacity will mean that women who live in the abortion-still-legal states will also face long waits. Such a waiting list can be the difference between a rather mundane early abortion and one that looks a lot more like what the pro-forced-pregnancy-and-birth people say happens with all abortions. Given that people within this benighted movement must be aware of the impact of the laws they promote, it is fair to conclude that as between an early abortion and a late one, the "pro-lifers" prefer the late one. It conforms more to their claims about baby-killing and the like. One way to ensure that your words are true is to change reality to correspond to your words.
So if you are someone who has mixed views about abortion, if you think people should be able to terminate early but not later along, make sure to support the legal availability of medical abortion and of early surgical termination as well. By doing so, you--and not the promoters of forced-pregnancy-and-birth--will be doing something akin to saving babies. Don't believe the lies of the late-abortion-loving movement.