Late term abortions are rare, and a cause of anguish
BY CINDY RICHARDS
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times
April 25, 2007
"The Court, differently composed than it was when we last considered a restrictive abortion regulation, is hardly faithful to our earlier invocations of 'the rule of law' . . . In candor, the Act, and the Court's defense of it, cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court."
So Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says in her dissent to the Supreme Court's ruling last week upholding a federal law banning a certain procedure for ending pregnancies after the 12th week, regardless of whether it is necessary to preserve the health of the mother.
''One down,'' declared one pro-life blog. ''Is Roe vs. Wade next?''
That, of course, is what pro-lifers hope for and pro-choicers fear. And with our court ''differently composed'' today, there is no way to know for sure.
If the American people were to rule, they would say abortion should be legal in most or all cases -- but not this one.
Late in pregnancy, when the fetus is more easily seen as a baby, it's tougher for all but the most ardently pro-choice to say that abortion is OK.
In most cases, it's equally tough for the woman carrying that baby.
The adverse publicity surrounding late-term abortion would have us believe it is most often sought by women who spent the last five, six, seven months watching their bellies grow and then suddenly changed their minds and cavalierly decided to end their pregnancies.
There are no studies showing whether that is the case. Why? Because this type of late-term abortion is so rare that the sample is too small to provide reliable statistics, according to a spokeswoman from the Guttmacher Institute, the leading authority on such things.
So we are left with anecdotal evidence from women who have faced the difficult choice of whether to end a wanted pregnancy when they learn, as writer Gretchen Voss has said so eloquently, that ''pregnancy [is] a gamble, not a guarantee.''
Voss wrote about her discovery during her second trimester that the baby she and her husband already loved would never live a full life and might not live at all. They made the heart-wrenching choice to terminate the pregnancy.
In other stories gathered by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Institute for Reproductive Health Access, women tell of ill-fated pregnancies that threatened their own health, their ability to have more children in the future, even their lives. In each case, they chose to end a pregnancy that was never destined to produce a healthy child.
This national debate over abortion will continue, rising to a crescendo as the presidential election nears.
If we can turn down the noise long enough, we might be able to hear the anguish of the mothers who find the baby they want is not to be -- because there is a problem with the baby or a health threat to the mother.
And then we can listen to them cry as they cling to their husbands and beg their doctors for better news.
No matter how quiet we are, though, I don't expect to hear any of them thanking Congress or the Supreme Court for adding to their already unbearable burden.