There are about 3.8 million babies born in the United States each year. There are about 600,000 abortions performed each year. Of those 600,000 abortions, about 600 (six hundred) are late-term abortions (after 24 weeks), and almost all of them are due to fetal anomalies, although a few are as a result of rape or incest. In many cases where fetal anomalies exist, babies are aborted because they will not survive outside of the womb. Late-term abortions are extremely rare; no one wants to have a late-term abortion. They’re only performed because the circumstances are so dire that not having a late-term abortion would be more traumatic for both the mother and/or the fetus than having a late-term abortion.
With that context in mind, let’s take a look at this Trump tweet:
Senate Democrats just voted against legislation to prevent the killing of newborn infant children. The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2019
….This will be remembered as one of the most shocking votes in the history of Congress. If there is one thing we should all agree on, it’s protecting the lives of innocent babies.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2019
Obviously, I don’t have to tell anyone here that the tweet has no basis in reality. It is, however, part of a larger strategy by Trump and the Republicans to drum up support among the evangelical base by stoking fears about late-term abortions. The vote to which Trump is referring is The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill that did not pass in the Senate that would have imposed criminal penalties against abortion providers who did not attempt to use life-saving measures on a fetus that survives a failed abortion attempt.
There are two things that I should note here: That bill basically already exists. In 2002, Congress passed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which gave any baby born alive at any stage of the pregnancy full legal rights, meaning that a doctor would be required to perform the same measures on a baby born at 23 weeks as a baby born at full term. The only real difference here is that Ben Sasse’s bill imposes criminal penalties.
The other thing is this: This situation does not happen. It just doesn’t. The idea that a baby with fetal anomalies survives a late-term abortion is basically a myth. The Republicans are trying to pass a law to protect mythical babies with fetal anomalies that somehow miraculously survive an abortion, though most would not even survive a normal delivery.
This is not a medical matter. This is not a legal matter. Democrats do not support infanticide. There is already a law on the books that protects babies in this non-existent situation. In this situation, Democrats in the Senate voted against imposing criminal penalties only because they understand that Republicans would try and use the law to impose more restrictions on abortions.
Has there ever been a baby who survived a failed abortion? I mean, in the history of mankind? Sure. Maybe. One or three. But go ahead. Google it. What’d you find? Oh yeah, you found that story, too? About the baby found screaming for over an hour in medical waste that was saved by a nurse? Check your source on that story, which seems to be repeated in a lot of news accounts with anti-abortion agendas and that often comes up when laws like these are debated. Yeah, the thing is: That didn’t happen. The fetus — which had Down Syndrome and kidney and heart defects — was not expected to survive outside the womb (hence the late-term abortion). The baby did hang on for about half an hour, during which time nurses performed palliative measures. After the baby died, the parents were asked if they would like the nurses to resuscitate. The parents said no.
Can you imagine being those parents, witnessing their severely compromised baby slowly die of its birth defects, and then have to decide whether to resuscitate? This is exactly why a parent would choose to have a late-term abortion: To avoid that fate. Look: Most chromosomal abnormalities show up early enough in the pregnancy that mothers have the option to have a normal second-trimester abortion. The decision to have a late-term abortion is because something has really profoundly gone wrong.
Some of you who have read my Valentine’s Day story might be saying, “But Dustin! Aren’t you glad that you and your wife didn’t have that 20-week abortion?” In fact, my own mother used our twins as an argument against late-term abortions in a Facebook post the other day. Infuriating!
OK, 1) that was an intensely personal choice, a calculated risk that could have backfired spectacularly, and while it miraculously worked in our favor, the odds were against it. We would not begrudge anyone for choosing not to take that risk. 2) But more importantly in our case, if late-term abortions were more readily available, we would not have been forced to make that decision. We were told at around 18 or 19 weeks that there was a very good chance that one or both twins would die or be born with severe birth defects. We asked a specialist, “OK. What if we find out at 23 weeks that one baby has died and the other has severe defects?” And he said, basically, “You have two choices. You can deliver a stillborn baby and watch as the other baby slowly dies outside the womb or you can fly to Colorado or Florida and get a late-term abortion” (he also added that, at one point, we could have gone to Kansas, but they killed that doctor). Can you imagine flying 2,000 miles away to have a dead and deformed fetus removed from your uterus? Is that better or worse than delivering a stillborn baby and another baby that dies half an hour after birth? If late-term abortions in the cases of fetal anomalies had been available in our home state or even a neighboring state, there wouldn’t have been a question of waiting. We would have. We wanted to wait! But the abortion restrictions basically put an expiration date on our ability to wait.
Granted, our case was extraordinary, but trust this: There are only 600 late-term abortions performed a year compared to 3.8 million babies born a year. All of those cases are extraordinary, and this bill would undoubtedly cause more difficulty for women in those already extraordinarily difficult and most often deeply traumatic cases.
So, really, Trump, what you’re doing here is shaming women who — in many cases — are already suffering horribly. That seems on brand.