The Vaginagate Roundup

In case you missed it — in case you were wondering why all your friends were using the word “vagina” in their Facebook status updates over the weekend — late last week two representatives (both women) were banned from speaking in the Michigan House during a debate over a bill that bans all abortions after 20 weeks, with no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. The Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas hasn’t specified exactly what offended him, but one of the representatives, Democrat Lisa Brown, claims it’s because she used the word vagina. “Apparently, ‘vagina’ is another v-word that Must Not Be Named. Like Voldemort,” Brown told Jezebel.com. Here’s a (very abridged!) sampling of Vaginagate coverage:

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  1. Johnny,

    I have a longer comment with links that went to moderation. The short answer to the “why they wait” question is that women who have later abortions tend to be poorer and couldn’t get the money together for an earlier abortion, are younger and didn’t understand that they were pregnant or didn’t know where to go for help or discover serious fetal anomalies during testing that is done at 20 weeks.

    When my comment gets posted, I really hope you’ll follow the link and read the interview with the doctor. The whole thing is very informative.

    As for safety, even abortion after 21 weeks is safer than giving birth. I won’t rehash all the statistics, as I assume my comment will get fished out of moderation sometime tomorrow.

  2. This interview with a 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”

  3. V-word ridiculousness aside, I have a question about the actual legislation at hand.

    They’re not talking about banning abortion. They’re talking about banning abortion after 20 weeks. That’s 5 months. My first question is, why the hell would anyone wait that long? But I guess that’s none of my business, so feel free to skip right over that question and move on to my next one.

    My real question is, when does abortion cross the line from pretty much safe to realistically hazardous for the mother? I know absolutely nothing about the medical science behind this, but I can kind of imagine late-term abortions being less safe (I googled my question and found bunch of pro-life/pro-choice propaganda, but – surprise, surprise – very little scientific info. This being the United States, who on either side of the debate gives a shit about that?).

    The closest answer I could get to my question was a vague, “earlier is safer,” but I want figures here. Could someone save me a trip to pore over scientific journals at the library? Maybe Dr. Vanessa?

    To quote Bill Maher (who was talking about global warming, but whatever), “I don’t care what Republicans say, or what Democrats say. I only care what scientist say.”

    So, enough from Chistians, atheists, feminists, liberals, conservatives, etc. What do DOCTORS say about late-term abortion?

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