Comment of the Week: Why Late-Term Abortion NEEDS to Be Legal

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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 the Vaginagate 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 don’t have an understanding of their body changes, and often figure out later that they’re pregnant. Or they find out early enough that they’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 aren’t conscious of it.

Starting with those women as the ones you’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.”

— Chingona


  1. David-
    Not all birth control costs $20. Some pills cost $100 more every month. Even with access to Planned Parenthood, not all states provide funding for discounts on birth control. This is especially difficult for women who develop harmful side effects and simply cannot withstand the cheapest pills.

  2. I didn’t realize that people older than 25 with some college education never find themselves unemployed, never end up in abusive relationships, never already have two or three kids they are struggling to support, never develop medical problems. Etc. My husband works in a food stamp office. He sees all sorts of people older than 25 with some college education in, as you put it, “regrettable situations.”

  3. David then you should just be the one developing that birth control which works always for a 100% and hasn’t any side effects.
    Condoms tear up and it takes only a diarhea or being sick for the pill to stop working.

  4. I am somewhat pro-life but it is much less bothersome to me when people in abusive or unfortunate circumstances get any abortion.

    What bothers me is when people who have reasonable access to birth control get an abortion. Not only is it financially stupid (they could spend $1 on a condom, $20 on pills for a month or several hundred dollars on an abortion) but they also offend a ton of people in this country and make the abortion debates louder and uglier.

    Also, the pro-choice people in this country would win a lot more supporters in the abortion debates if the vast majority of abortions were needed by people in regrettable situations.

    The facts are that 57% of abortion receivers had some college education. About 50% are 25 or older. So many/most abortion receivers are not groups that I can generally feel were too young or uneducated to make better decisions.

    I’m pro-life but I’d be much happier to reduce abortions by people making better decisions than by the government trying to force everyone to stop. I don’t like the government making more decisions for its citizens than is absolutely necessary because the government does NOT always know best.

  5. Thanks!

    Any abortion is less traumatic than actually giving birth – of course. Why didn’t I think of that?

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