For years the Fetus People have based their entire movement on falsified framing, and they are still at it. They are particularly lavish with the phrase “late-term abortion,” drizzling it over their rhetoric like syrup over pancakes. Michael Gerson is doing it today, for example. However, to them “late-term” is a mercurial qualifier with no fixed boundaries and little relationship to actual human gestation. It means whatever they want it to mean.
For example, back when the fight was over the intact D&X procedure, or what the FPs kept calling “partial-birth abortion,” The Fetus People did such a good job conflating the terms “Partial birth” and “late term” that when the Supreme Court sided with them that the procedure could be banned, the FPs celebrated the end of late-term abortion. I wrote about this a lot at the time; see “Better Middle Than Late” and “More Late-Term Confusion.”
For example, this person sincerely believed that the “partial-birth” controversy was about aborting potentially viable fetuses, which it wasn’t. He wrote,
If a late term pregnancy was so harmful to the mother’s health, then the mother should just deliver the baby and give the baby a chance to survive. But this procedure wasn’t really about saving the life of the mother. It was about killing an unwanted baby.
But most, if not all, of these procedures were done before the gestational age at which a fetus is viable. So no matter how the pregnancy was terminated, there was no “chance to survive.” And elective post-viability abortion already was, and still is, illegal.
The SCOTUS decision in Roe v. Wade allows states to ban elective abortion when the fetus is potentially viable, and it seems all have done so, although I understand that in 9 states the law is not officially in effect because of a pending court challenge. However, per Roe guidelines, after the gestational age at which a fetus might survive, an abortion cannot be performed legally in 41 states by any means unless there is a medically compelling — life & health of the mother — reason to do so.
For the most recent information on the status of abortion law in each state, see the Guttmacher Institute, “State Policies on Later Abortions,” updated July 1, 2013.
So when Michael Gerson writes in his most recent column:
The national abortion settlement declared by Roe v. Wade — rooting a nearly unrestricted right to abortion in the right to privacy — has been unstable for 40 years. The reason is a tension between the state of the law and a durable public consensus that human life has an increasing claim on our sympathy as it develops. This view does not reflect either pro-life or pro-choice orthodoxy. But it predicts a more sustainable political resolution.
The media have a slothful tendency to place Americans into rigid categories of pro-life and pro-choice. The reality is more complicated. A 2011 Gallup poll found that 79 percent of people who describe themselves as pro-choice support making abortion illegal in the third trimester.
… he is willfully ignoring what he must know, that, for all practical purposes, elective abortion already is illegal in the third trimester
… and Roe is fine with this. Roe isn’t the problem. The problem is with bleeping stupid pinhead troglodyte righties who form opinions based on abject ignorance of both law and pregnancy.
Here’s what they’re up to: First, the Fetus People are hoping the public, including their own minions, have forgotten their victory over “late-term abortion” back in 2005 so they can recycle the old propaganda about those awful late-term abortions that are going on.
Second, they are trying to close the “life and health” exceptions, because they’d rather see a woman die than willfully refuse to drop her calf, so to speak. Of course, many of them have persuaded themselves that circumstances in which a fetus must be sacrificed to save the mother never happen, just like pregnancy resulting from rape never happens. It’s so much easier to achieve moral clarity if you ignore the messy reality of things.
Third, they are re-defining “third trimester” downward so that it starts sometime in mid-pregnancy. Notice how Gerson goes on about the third trimester when the laws being pushed by the Right these days would ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation, which is seven weeks earlier than the third trimester actually starts, and well before the viability threshold.
A full-term human pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. Even the math impaired can probably figure that 20 weeks is smack in the middle of the gestation period, not late in the gestation period. And no human fetus has ever survived outside the womb after only 20 weeks’ gestation.
But because the Supreme Court imposed a national settlement at odds with natural sentiments, pro-choice advocates are on the defensive. Their political challenge is to prevent the working of politics. Their real opponent is democracy, as state after state considers late-term abortion restrictions.
Pro-choice advocacy organizations have always stood by Roe, which means they are perfectly fine with states passing late-term abortions restrictions as long as (1) late-term bans really are late-term, meaning no sooner than the 24th weeks of gestation (the common viability threshold, which is still three weeks before the third trimester begins); and (2) allow for exceptions for life and health of the mother, giving private physicians reasonable discretion as to what that means without being second guessed by a bunch of pinhead troglodyte legislators.
So, again, Roe isn’t the problem, and reproductive rights advocates are fine with states banning genuinely late-term elective abortions, and have been since Roe was decided in bleeping 1973. But as part of the propaganda effort, shills like Gerson have to paint reproductive rights advocates as the unreasonable ones who don’t understand that late-term abortions are different.
See also Charles Pierce, “Stop Blowing Up Clinics and You’ll Have a Point“; and Tim Murphy, “Texas Lawmakers Too Busy Targeting Abortion Providers to Deal With Exploding Fertilizer Plants.”