Why do Women Have Late Term Abortions?

Revolutionary Worker #906, May 11, 1997

Sometimes fetal problems don't show up until the end of the second trimester, when amniocentesis gives information that can allow women to terminate disastrous pregnancies. Other times, women develop diabetes from pregnancy, or they develop other life-threatening conditions where the pregnancy has to be stopped, even if they want the child. Some women who faced these situations bravely testified before Congress, arguing against the so-called "partial-birth abortion" bill.

One of the women who testified in Congress against the ban was Tammy Watts who had an "intact d&e" performed in 1995. She was 28 weeks pregnant with her first child when it was discovered the fetus had lethal problems caused by a genetic disorder, including severe brain damage, missing chambers to the heart, oversized and failing liver and kidneys. Doctors told her and her husband that Tammy's health would be at risk if she continued the pregnancy, especially if the baby died in her uterus. Dozens of other women's stories were told, including women who were practicing Catholics, registered nurses, Republicans--all angry that Congress would ban the procedure that they unexpectedly needed.

But most of the women who need late term abortions, including those who need procedures like intact d&e, have never been invited to speak on this, even by the pro-choice movement. They are women who didn't know until three or four months had passed that they were pregnant, because they were very young or close to menopause, or had other medical problems which disguised pregnancy, or lacked knowledge denied them by bans on sex education and birth control information for youth. (A recent study done in Dayton, Ohio showed that, in a clinic there, 80% of the women having second trimester abortions were young women.) They may be young women having a hard time dealing with an unwanted pregnancy--and all the social pressure put on them. Some of them are paralyzed by having to make a decision they aren't ready for, or not knowing how to fight parental notification or consent laws, (which exist is some form in 38 states), especially if the man involved in the pregnancy is a relative. Or they are poor or rural women, not having the $400 or so to pay for or get to an earlier abortion. Only 15 states pay for an abortion through Medicaid. Most states also now have waiting periods of 24 or 48 hours, designed by the anti-abortion movement to put yet another barrier in the way of abortion.

The ongoing attacks on abortion have created a situation where more women end up having to get abortions after the first trimester. So it is doubly cruel that the very forces behind these attacks are now trying to ban procedures women need to get late term abortions.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)