On either side of the abortion debate, there’s little agreement on when life begins. But at some point, it becomes obvious that life does exist inside the womb and a fetus has advanced to the point of being able to survive outside the mother. That’s what makes the push in some states for increased access to late-term abortions so puzzling.
Abortion remains one of the most controversial topics. It pits two irreconcilable beliefs — pre-born babies have a right to life and women have the right to make their own reproductive decisions — against each other. Yet there is widespread agreement when it comes to late-term abortions. A 2018 Gallup poll found that 81 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the last three months of pregnancy. The same poll found that 48 percent of Americans considered themselves pro-abortion. This means that even a majority of abortion supporters oppose late-term abortions.
Children can now survive being born as early as 22 weeks gestation and weighing just over half a pound.
Several states, however, are moving in the opposite direction. Earlier this year, New York passed a bill allowing abortions “at any time when necessary to protect a patient’s life or health.” Health concerns include mental health, which is de facto legalization of abortion up to the point of birth. That’s not all. It also removed abortion from the criminal code. If a man in New York shoots a pregnant woman and causes her to miscarry, prosecutors can charge him only with the assault on the mother.
Last week, a New York district attorney dropped one of the charges he previously sought against a man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend and her baby. The prosecutor said that because the law had changed, he could charge the man only for the woman’s murder.
Politicians in Virginia and Rhode Island have also introduced measures seeking to make it easier to obtain late-term abortions.
In the U.S. Senate, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse sought unanimous consent on a bill that would have required that babies surviving a botched abortion receive medical care. Senate Democrats blocked the bill. That’s a long way from former President Bill Clinton’s call for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.”
Abortion activists — like many gun owners in opposing efforts to limit firearms — trot out the “slippery slope” argument to defend late-term abortions. But at least gun-rights activists have the Second Amendment to buttress their arguments. Abortion extremists have no such cover to defend late third-trimester abortions, which border on infanticide.
As columnist Jonah Goldberg put it recently, “If you think it’s worth tolerating a certain number of baby killings to protect abortion rights, you should say so. But please don’t pretend the moral ground you’re standing on is very high.”