There’s no good argument against the 20-week abortion limit

posted at 7:21 pm on September 21, 2015 by Jazz Shaw

This will prove to be an unusual article here at Hot Air since I so rarely weigh in on the abortion issue, but some of the arguments currently making the rounds regarding a new bill limiting abortions to 20 weeks have been pushing my buttons. One example of this came out at the Washington Post this weekend in the form of a heartrending personal tale of tragedy from Rebecca Cohen. A married woman with two children, excitedly expecting her third, she ran into some of the worst news possible during a visit to her OB/GYN.

At 20 weeks, my husband and I went for our favorite prenatal visit: the detailed ultrasound anatomy scan that shows your baby’s heart, kidneys, bladder, stomach, spine and brain and whether you’re having a girl or a boy. I could barely contain myself as I sat on the exam table, eager to meet our baby more intimately. My husband and I chit-chatted with the ultrasound technician, gabbing and laughing when we recognized familiar features on the ultrasound images.

But after five minutes, only my husband and I were talking. The technician had grown quiet. She just kept printing picture after picture and pressing the wand deeper into the gel on my stomach.

My husband and I reached for each other’s hands. We asked the technician if everything was all right, and she said we should wait for a doctor to talk to us. When the OB/GYN entered, I remember asking point-blank, “Is there a chance our child will be okay?” He responded kindly, softly and unequivocally: “No.”

They would find out that their baby’s brain had been completely destroyed except for the brain stem so other organs were functional in utero, but the doctor informed her that the baby either wouldn’t go to term or would die shortly after delivery. For some reason she had a hard time scheduling a procedure so her abortion didn’t take place until the 21st week.

As I said, it’s a heartbreaking story and something no parent would want to go through. But at the end, the author uses her own example as a reason to say that there should be no 20 week limit on abortions. She cites statistics saying that fewer than 2% of abortions take place after 20 weeks anyway, many because of devastating medical situations like ours.

Right up front, as much as I truly do sympathize with the tragedy that Mrs. Cohen endured, I have to say that you’d probably have to search long and hard across the country to come up with many people who fit into that mold… not precisely a sample size one would base legislation on. An incredibly rare condition arises which doesn’t kill the child in utero but will not allow it to live after birth and it’s only discovered at the 20 week mark even with the most thorough regimen of prenatal care. Horrible to be sure, but I’d be interested to see the number of similar cases which crop up each year.

She also mentions that “just more than 1 percent” of abortions are late term. That may be true, but the most recent statistics I saw from the CDC indicate that there were roughly 750K abortions in 2011. (The last year they’ve posted records for.) That’s somewhere between 7,500 and 15K late term abortions, some percentage of those being well beyond 20 weeks, assuming we accept those baseline numbers for a ballpark figure. (I’ve read some which range considerably higher.)

I’ll pause here a moment to circle back to the fact that I don’t write on this subject often and why I generally leave it to Ed. (Or Dustin Siggins when he chimes in here.) There’s a reason for that. I got out of the abortion debate after throwing up my arms years ago. After a lot of education, discussion and soul searching I came down at a position which fit in with nobody. To the pro-lifers I’m a baby killing monster while to the pro-choice crowd I’m a right wing tyrant who wants to keep all the wimminz knocked up and barefoot in the kitchen. It’s pretty much a no win situation. But I have strongly believed in many restrictions on the procedure to make it as rare as possible, and one of the core tenets I hold is that in the rare cases where it is done it needs to be done as soon as possible and well before any threshold of viability even with the advanced prenatal technology available today.

20 weeks is already far too late as far as I’m concerned, and the number of case out there such as Mrs. Cohen’s must be rare in the extreme. Perhaps an exception could be worked in for special cases like hers, but forgoing a 20 week limit just opens the door to too much horror such as we’ve seen in the Planned Parenthood videos. Her case was a tragedy, but it’s not sufficient grounds to abandon the rule altogether.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Like the majority of the country, I don’t think abortion should be illegal. But the 20-week limit is completely reasonable; in fact, I’d prefer to see no abortions after the first trimester, with exceptions for women like Mrs. Cohen who find themselves in an untenable situation.

it is extremely unlikely that she didn’t know about anencephaly prior to 20 weeks. yes she is dreck.
Wow!

You are claiming she knew prior to the ultrasound? On what basis???

wbcoleman on September 21, 2015 at 9:16 PM

its extremely unlikely that someone in Frau Cohen’s demographic didn’t have at least two antenatal sonograms prior to 20 weeks. I guess you are not in the medical field.
G’mar Tovah.

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 7:03 AM

And it would also be shockingly unlikely that she did not have an alpha fetal protein blood test at around 10 weeks

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 7:27 AM

The GOP has talked about this and has included caveats like incest rape and the welfare of the mother. They can include the welfare of the child, too. They can also make the argument (using the left’s ideology on the death penalty) that this is cruel and unusual punishment. The baby can feel pain. Why do the liberals care more about the pain and suffering of convicted felons that they do an innocent baby?

djaymick on September 22, 2015 at 7:31 AM

That’s the real end game. To support a 20-week (or any week) abortion ban is to accede to the agenda of an utterly dishonest, malicious group of religious crackpots who really and truly do embody every negative liberal stereotype of socially conservative evangelical Christians.

Armin Tamzarian on September 21, 2015 at 8:07 PM

Malicious? Christians are not the ones advocating taking a life–you are.

MsYoung on September 22, 2015 at 7:33 AM

She is lying to everyone and trying to cover up the fact that she was given a concerned report for a challenged birth. She decided to abort this child rather than dealing with the challenges.

pjwal on September 22, 2015 at 12:58 AM

its extremely unlikely that someone in Frau Cohen’s demographic didn’t have at least two antenatal sonograms prior to 20 weeks. I guess you are not in the medical field.
G’mar Tovah.

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 7:03 AM

And it would also be shockingly unlikely that she did not have an alpha fetal protein blood test at around 10 weeks

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 7:27 AM

People really shouldn’t make judgments based on “facts” not in evidence. No knows what prenatal care she did or didn’t have so to definitively say “she had to know before 20 weeks” is just wanting reality to support your personal opinion.

katiejane on September 22, 2015 at 8:52 AM

People really shouldn’t make judgments based on “facts” not in evidence. No knows what prenatal care she did or didn’t have so to definitively say “she had to know before 20 weeks” is just wanting reality to support your personal opinion.
katiejane on September 22, 2015 at 8:52 AM

As a physician who has performed ultrasounds as a specialist for over 25 years and having reluctantly participated in abortions in medical school 30 years ago,
The statistical likelihood that she didn’t have the antenatal care I mentioned is far below the likelihood of her having an anencephalic pregnancy .

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 11:59 AM

its extremely unlikely that someone in Frau Cohen’s demographic didn’t have at least two antenatal sonograms prior to 20 weeks. I guess you are not in the medical field.
G’mar Tovah.

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 7:03 AM

Then you’re saying she lied?

wbcoleman on September 22, 2015 at 12:13 PM

As a physician who has performed ultrasounds as a specialist for over 25 years and having reluctantly participated in abortions in medical school 30 years ago,
The statistical likelihood that she didn’t have the antenatal care I mentioned is far below the likelihood of her having an anencephalic pregnancy .

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 11:59 AM

Really? At what confidence level?

wbcoleman on September 22, 2015 at 12:15 PM

Malicious? Christians are not the ones advocating taking a life–you are.

MsYoung on September 22, 2015 at 7:33 AM

In general, it is Christians who claim the fetus represents a human life. Not everyone agrees.

wbcoleman on September 22, 2015 at 12:17 PM

pjwal on September 22, 2015 at 12:58 AM

I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

its extremely unlikely that someone in Frau Cohen’s demographic didn’t have at least two antenatal sonograms prior to 20 weeks. I guess you are not in the medical field.
G’mar Tovah.

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 7:03 AM

Not disputing your assertion, but would like to have some links to look at.
In the seventies, (in my experience) ultrasounds were rare and expensive, used only if something was suspected to be amiss; in the eighties, they were less rare, slightly cheaper, and still cumbersome and difficult to access, as most were in hospitals and specialty clinics, not in the usual Ob/Gyn private offices.
By the nineties, they were cheap and routine, and every doctor had one.
There is no reason to wait until the end of FIVE MONTHS to get one.

Don’t know the details on fetal development, but I think the brain is mostly complete by that time.

People really shouldn’t make judgments based on “facts” not in evidence. No knows what prenatal care she did or didn’t have so to definitively say “she had to know before 20 weeks” is just wanting reality to support your personal opinion.
katiejane on September 22, 2015 at 8:52 AM

This is usually true, but we only know what we were told by the person putting out the story. Her physician, by law and ethics, can’t weigh in with the details.

However, one should not discount expert second opinions.

As a physician who has performed ultrasounds as a specialist for over 25 years and having reluctantly participated in abortions in medical school 30 years ago,
The statistical likelihood that she didn’t have the antenatal care I mentioned is far below the likelihood of her having an anencephalic pregnancy.

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 11:59 AM

(And don’t bother with those links, I’ll take your word.)

AesopFan on September 22, 2015 at 12:31 PM

As a physician who has performed ultrasounds as a specialist for over 25 years and having reluctantly participated in abortions in medical school 30 years ago,
The statistical likelihood that she didn’t have the antenatal care I mentioned is far below the likelihood of her having an anencephalic pregnancy .
avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 11:59 AM
Really? At what confidence level?
wbcoleman on September 22, 2015 at 12:15 PM

like I said before, you are not in the medical field are you ? If you were you would know what I’m talking about anyway
Gmar Chasima Tovah

avi natan on September 22, 2015 at 4:18 PM

n general, it is Christians who claim the fetus represents a human life. Not everyone agrees.

wbcoleman on September 22, 2015 at 12:17 PM

That doesn’t mean those in disagreement are correct. As a general rule, a pregnant woman is not going to give birth to a horse, or a cat, or any other creature but a human being.

MsYoung on September 24, 2015 at 6:08 AM

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