In response to commenter/contributor Johnny’s questions “Why the hell would anyone wait 5 months to have an abortion?” and “When does abortion cross the line from pretty much safe to realistically hazardous for the mother?” in theÂ VaginagateÂ discussion, Chingona had these very helpful answers:
This interview with a [Christian] doctor who performs abortions up to 24 weeks gives a candid and compassionate answer to the “why do they wait so long” question.
Typically, the women having second trimester abortions are women who learned of serious fetal anomalies during testing that is only done at 20 weeks, who developed serious health problems that don’t develop until later in pregnancy, are very poor and couldn’t get together the money earlier in the pregnancy, are in abusive relationships, or are so young or ignorant about sex that they didn’t understand that the changes in their bodies meant they were pregnant.
Q. You say women in their second trimester often have the most compelling need for an abortion. Why?
A. They lack access to health care or donâ€™t have an understanding of their body changes, and often figure out later that theyâ€™re pregnant. Or they find out early enough that theyâ€™re pregnant, but their lack of access to health care or volatile, dysfunctional relationships delay seeking help.
The women most likely to be in those situations are trapped in poverty, often women of color or poor socioeconomic backgrounds, less education, and women and girls at the extremes of reproductive age. Women beyond the age where they think they can become pregnant, or young girls who have infrequent and irregular sexual activity and arenâ€™t conscious of it.
Starting with those women as the ones youâ€™d cut off is kind of ironic, because they have the most compelling reasons to consider abortion in the first place.
As for the danger, even later abortions are safer than giving birth. In the United States, maternal mortality rates are around 1 in 10,000 for vaginal birth in 1 in 2,500 for c-sections.
The death rate for an abortion at 8 weeks or earlier is around 1 in a million. At 16-20 weeks, it’s 1 in 29,000. After 21 weeks, it’s 1 in 11,000.
My source is Guttmacher Institute, which is a pro-choice organization, but their statistics are generally considered sound and respected by both sides. They include citations from the studies that they use to compile these statistics.
Scroll down to “Safety of Abortion.”