In the last week, the state of New York has passed a law liberalising abortion law in the state. The law allowed abortion, effectively, up to birth. After fierce political debate a few years ago, partial birth abortion – that is, killing the baby while half of it has already been delivered – was banned. But this was not easy: Bill Clinton vetoed the ban, the majority of Democrats voted against it, and 4 of the 9 Supreme Court judges voted against it. That is to say, the former President, nearly half of US legislators and nearly half of the top judges upholding justice in the country thought that it should be permissible to kill a baby while it is halfway out of the womb.
Fortunately, we are not in that place now. But we are close enough. The new law in New York allows abortion up until the moment before birth. Of course, many media outlets were quick to report harrowing stories of women in awful situations that no one would be wished to place in – where the woman’s life is at risk, for example. What they did not mention is that these women are being used as political pawns to push an absolutely radical abortion agenda that fights for abortion up until birth for any reason whatsoever.
Just how radical is this? Well, just 13% of Americans think that abortion should be legal in the third trimester (and only 28% think it should be legal in the second trimester. And it is not clear that they mean ‘on demand’ in these cases). Move to other countries in the West and the extremity of this viewpoint is made clear: only 1% of the UK population – for the most part more liberal than the US – think that abortion up to birth should be legal. For comparison, to see how extreme this is, remember that 5% of Brits don’t believe the Holocaust took place, 20% of Americans think that homosexuality should be illegal, while 40% of Americans believe in creationism. 5% admit to feeling negatively towards Jews and 24% towards Muslims. Third trimester abortion is far more extreme and outlandish than even these. It is utterly crazy. The only countries in the world that allow abortion on demand up to birth are North Korea, China, and Canada (and possibly Vietnam, though this is unclear). This is not flattering company. Remember that babies can survive from 22 weeks outside the womb. There is no denying – regardless of your views on early abortions – that third trimester abortion involves the killing of a real baby who could live outside the womb. But that is what New York has committed themselves to.
Can this really be the case? Many people are claiming that the law only intends to legalise third trimester abortion when the woman’s life is at risk. This is straightforwardly false. Begin by looking at the law. It allows abortion if ‘the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.’ This sounds reasonable enough to those unfamiliar with health exceptions in Anglo-American law. But what the addition of ‘health’ – with no other qualifiers – achieves is abortion on demand. Why? In Anglo-American abortion law, ‘health’ is interpreted broadly, so that literally anything can count as a threat to mental health. In the UK, even sex-selective abortion – aborting a baby because it is a girl – is legal up to 24 weeks if a woman claims (or if a doctor, more familiar with the law, suggests to her, as is more usually the case) that having a baby girl would threaten her mental health. In American law, this has been explicitly enshrined in Supreme Court judgments: on the same day as Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Court also issued Doe v. Bolton, which clarified that ‘health’ is not just a ‘serious threat to physical health or life’, but ‘all factors – physical, emotional, psychological familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient.’ It does not matter, in the law, that abortion is probably causally associated with worse mental health, and drastically increases a woman’s mortality risk. In the law, abortion improves health by fiat alone.
If New York wanted a law that allowed abortion where the mother’s life is at risk, they could have said that. They added ‘health’, knowing the infinitely flexible legal understanding of that term. If they wanted a law that allowed abortion where there is a risk of grave injury to the mother, they could have formed a law like the UK’s, which says ‘grave permanent injury’. They said ‘health’. A happy term that surely no one could object to – until you realise that ‘health’ can mean literally anything – sex-selective abortion and all. This is abortion on demand up until the moment before birth.
Contrary to common opinion, abortion to save the life of a woman is exceedingly rare. Documentation is poor in the US, but in the UK we have good data for the reasons for abortion. Of nearly 200,000 abortions in the UK in 2017, 188 were performed to save the life of the mother or to prevent grave permanent injury (and not all of them were late term abortions). And yet there were at least 1,895 abortions performed past 22 weeks (the rough viability limit). This figure increases by many hundreds each week earlier. In the US, there are over 5,000 abortions performed past 21 weeks annually – and this is a significant underestimate as it does not include the data for California, Florida, Illinois, and a few other states, whose combined population is 80-90 million or so, and in largely very pro-choice states. It is simply not remotely plausible that these 5,000+ abortions are to prevent death or grave permanent injury.
Aside from the statistics, though, we know that late term abortions are performed for social reasons, because we have heard the same thing before. When partial birth abortion was debated, we were told time and time again that it was only in tragic circumstances, where the baby was unviable or the mother’s life is at risk. And yet abortionists later admitted that it was utterly false: that it was in the vast majority of cases performed on healthy mothers with healthy babies, after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “The abortion-rights folks know it, the anti-abortion folks know it, and so, probably, does everyone else.”
The abortion industry has lied to us about late abortions before. There is no reason to think that anything has changed. Late abortion has not become less common, nor less legal, nor has the abortion lobby changed. They are pushing for just as radical laws as before (see the support website for the New York law). They want abortion up to birth for any reason whatsoever, and in the New York Law, they have achieved it by transparent legal euphemism. And that is the cruel irony of the World Trade Center, whose memorial includes the names of unborn children killed in that cruel and vicious attack, celebrating the new law by lighting up with pink lights. The memorial below commemorates 11 unborn children whose lives were cruelly taken 18 years ago. The memorial above commemorates thousands more.
Update: Secular Pro Life has a number of blogs giving other reasons (including direct testimony from the doctors) to think that late abortions are not usually done for medical reasons. See here, here, here, and here.