Why We Need To Protect The Right For Second Trimester Abortions

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abortionAs we’ve been discussing here at Mommyish, Arkansas recently passed the most extreme abortion ban in the country, prohibiting elective abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The law flies in the face of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that guarantees access to abortions for women up until the point of fetus viability, usually believed to be between 22 and 24 weeks.

In response to this news story, one of my commenters made some thoughtful statements about why she supports a ban on second trimester abortions, even though she considers herself pro-choice. “Alice,” who explains that she has made the choice to terminate a pregnancy herself, believes that pro-choice advocates are simply digging in their heels about this relatively small number of abortions, afraid of the “slippery slope” that might lead to a complete lack of abortion access.

“[R]ationally, should a woman need to take more than three months to decide to terminate? i don’t really think so. rationally, is three months a fair enough time period for weighing choices? probably. rationally, if you’re sexually active and have had over two missed periods, should you take a pregnancy test? yessum. and rationally, is there anything specifically important about leaving the next 10-12 weeks of gestation on the table? not really…besides, of course, the fact that we feel we need to dig in, protect established law, and fiercely deny any discussion about change.”

So let’s start with some facts, collected from the Guttmacher Institute. 88% of abortions occur within the first 12 weeks, so the majority of abortions would not be affected by laws like Arkansas’s. At this point in the pregnancy, there is no option for a medical abortion, which is often the safest and easiest way to perform an abortion early on in pregnancy. The most frequent procedure performed in the second trimester is called a Dilation & Evacuation or D&E. It is a two-day procedure and is performed by about 64% of all abortion providers.

The safety of abortions does drop with added weeks of pregnancy. Whereas one per every million abortions before eight weeks would result in death, one per 29,000 between 16-20 weeks would have serious, fatal complications. However, this is still an extremely safe medical procedure overall.

And one more interesting, and I think pertinent fact, “Fifty-eight percent of abortion patients say they would have liked to have had their abortion earlier. Nearly 60% of women who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it took to make arrangements and raise money.”

In her comments, Alice talks about the possibility of focusing pro-choice energies on strengthening support and access for women who want to get abortions in their first trimester, as opposed to fighting any and all attempt to restrict second trimester abortions. “I know this is all ideal theorizing, but imagine a culture in which there was no argument on 1st tri abortions, but they were simply accepted as a safe, highly accessible, and voluntary procedure. And then 2nd tri abortions were heavily regulated. Would that be a better or worse world?”

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