Since a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy went into effect in North Carolina, discussions, questions, and unfortunately, misinformation have circulated about terminating pregnancies at this stage.
House Speaker Tim Moore recently told the News & Observer, “You got some folks who think abortion ought to be legal up until five minutes before a baby’s born. That’s the most extreme, crazy position.”
This language is inaccurate at best and severely misleading at worst. Anti-abortion lawmakers use inflammatory statements like this to attempt to influence how constituents view abortion rights and access.
Dr. Katherine Farris, an abortion provider in North Carolina, recently appeared in a video from Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic explaining the truth about why patients may seek abortion after 20 weeks.
“Anti-abortion politicians are lying to you about abortion later in pregnancy,” she says in the video. “They are taking advantage of people in complex, tragic medical circumstances. My patients deserve to make these complex decisions with their healthcare provider, whether it’s a medical complication or a fetal anomaly of a much desired pregnancy.”
The truth is, abortion later in pregnancy accounts for only 1% of total abortions performed in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute. Many of these abortions occur because the patient discovers new medical information about the pregnancy, such as fetal anomalies or health conditions that could threaten the pregnant person’s life.
Some people seeking abortion later in pregnancy were delayed in accessing abortion earlier, either because they didn’t know they were pregnant or because of logistical barriers, including legal restrictions and difficulty paying for services. Even in these cases, which are rare, having an abortion at this stage can improve their life circumstances and pose significantly less risk than childbirth.
In 2008, a research team from the University of California San Francisco began recruiting for what is now known as The Turnaway Study, a study examining the outcomes of patients who sought abortion based on whether or not they were able to receive care. The study found that people who were denied an abortion and went on to give birth faced higher levels of poverty, increased health complications, and worse conditions for their existing children, compared to people who received the abortion they wanted.
People should have control over their own bodies, no matter their circumstances. Those seeking abortion later in pregnancy are facing complex situations that cannot be legislated. They deserve to have those conversations with their doctors, not politicians.