By Bea Dixon, PhD, Democratic Political Activist, Feb 16, 2023.
Republicans and pro-life activists repeatedly claim that Democrats support “abortions on demand” even late in pregnancy.
- Senator Rubio from Florida tweeted on Sep 6, 2022: “Val Demings supports abortion up until the moment of birth.”1
- Senate nominee Blake Masters from Arizona wrote on his website: “Mark Kelly believes in nationwide abortion on-demand up until birth, with zero limits.” 1
- And in May 2022 the Catholic News Agency reported: “The US Senate voted Wednesday against moving forward with what pro-life leaders described as ‘The Abortion on Demand Until Birth Act” (in reference to the Women’s Health Protection Act). 2
Nothing could be further from the truth. This misrepresentation makes impossible any meaningful discussion about the highly complex and often life-threatening medical and ethical circumstances which women and couples and their physicians can face in pregnancy.
It is important to understand that abortions after 21 weeks are infrequent – only 1.2% of the total abortions in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control.3 Also, by law, they are never “on demand.” They require careful considerations by patients and physicians working together.
Here are examples:
- A professor of reproductive health noted that a patient with pulmonary hypertension will have a 30 to 50% chance of dying in pregnancy. She asks: “At what point is the woman’s life of concern? Must the risk be 100%?”4 Must patients and their physicians wait to decide on abortion while the chances of death escalate?
- Recently, a couple pregnant with their second child learned from a 20-week ultrasound that their baby would be born with a congenital diaphragm deformity and would suffocate at birth. Who should decide if that infant should be born and suffer?5
- Another couple learned during the third trimester that if their baby survived birth, he would never speak, walk, or have conscious thoughts because of a severe malformation of the brain. They listened to their doctors, genetic counselors, their family, and made the heart-wrenching decision to have an abortion.5
Both couples in the last two examples lived in states that placed restrictions on abortions later in pregnancy and had to fly across the country for the procedure.4 Some states with restrictive abortion laws may allow the procedure under life-threatening circumstances but the language is often vague or narrowly defined. This is problematic in a state milieu which may carry the threat of criminal prosecution. 6
The real problem Americans should be focusing on is not whether Democrats support “abortion on demand” but finding answers to difficult medical and ethical questions that may occur at any point in pregnancy and that this term heartlessly obscures. We need to protect BOTH the life of the fetus AND the life of the mother. We need to decide if families have to endure the process of pregnancy and birth no matter how deformed the baby will be and how much suffering the baby may endure in a very short life. We should have laws which enable patients and physicians to grapple with such circumstances and protect good faith decision making from the threat of criminal prosecution.
Democrats are NOT in support of “killing babies,” as some legislators imply. What they do support, however, is giving couples faced with the mother’s risk of death or their unborn child’s severe disorder the freedom to, in consultation with medical expertise, come to terms with these extremely difficult and very deeply personal choices.
Image Credits: Health care worker explaining medical records to patient in office. Credit: Maskot/Getty Images