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Third-trimester abortion in America: ‘Healthy babies at seven, eight and nine months gestation’

After Tiller, a documentary on late-term abortion providers, aired at the Sundance Festival last month. According to a Jan. 21 article on ABC News, the film profiled four abortionists who perform third-trimester abortions.

Roe v. Wade legalized abortion for all nine months of pregnancy. It stated that abortion could not be restricted except in the third trimester, and then only when the pregnancy did not endanger a woman’s health. Roe’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton, defined “health” broadly to include mental or emotional health. The abortion must be allowed if the mother is at risk of being emotionally harmed by the pregnancy. Therefore, it is impossible for any state to ban third-trimester abortions, as the health exception creates a wide loophole that abortionists are all too eager to exploit.

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The ABC article estimates that less than 1% of all abortions take place in the third trimester. Even at a rate of 1%, third-trimester abortions would add up to over 9,000 a year. However, statistics on the number of late-term abortions are notoriously unreliable. Several former clinic workers, such as Carol Everett, have said that late-term abortions were performed in their facilities and went unreported. The 2008 case of Kermit Gosnell, who killed hundreds of third-trimester babies, many of whom were born alive and then killed with surgical scissors, is more evidence that there may be more late abortions done than is commonly believed. Before his arrest, Gosnell had flown under the radar of most pro-life groups and attracted little attention. How many more Kermit Gosnells are out there?

The general argument that one hears in pro-choice circles is that late-term abortions are performed only for the direst of reasons. Groups like Planned Parenthood say that all late-term abortions are done because the unborn baby is horribly deformed or dying, or because the woman’s life is in danger. In reality, third-trimester abortions, usually done by induction (an injection of Dioxin into the fetal heart or amniotic fluid to kill the baby, followed by inducing labor to expel the dead child) are more dangerous to women than merely allowing them to give birth naturally. And many of the late-term abortions for “fetal abnormality” are done on babies with nonlethal defects such as Down syndrome. Ninety percent of all Down syndrome pregnancies end in abortion.

In After Tiller, Dr. Susan Robinson, who performs third-trimester abortions at her clinic in Albuquerque, admits that not all the women who come in for late abortions are there because of a deformity or flaw in the baby:

Women whose fetuses have terrible abnormalities … are a lot easier for people to understand. The husband and wife want to spare their baby whatever suffering that baby would have.

“Then there’s the group of women who didn’t know they were pregnant,” Robinson continues. “They were told they were not pregnant for one reason or another and they are just as desperate. ‘I already have three children, my husband just lost his job and I can barely put food on the table. If I add a new baby to this family, we’ll all go under.'”

These are healthy women having abortions on babies who are capable of being born alive. Rather than deliver the healthy, normal child and put him or her up for adoption by one of the two million couples on waiting lists for babies, the parents choose to kill their babies mere weeks before they could be born.

Although media outlets portrayed George Tiller as a hero and a martyr for the pro-choice cause, and although his death at the hands of a fanatical and misguided anti-abortionist was tragic and unjustified, he too often performed abortions on healthy babies.

In a 1995 speech at a National Abortion Federation Convention in New Orleans, Tiller made this statement:

We have some experience with late terminations; about 10,000 patients between 24 and 36 weeks and something like 800 fetal anomalies between 26 and 36 weeks in the past 5 years.

This means that only 800 out of 10,000 post-24-week abortions were on unhealthy children.

A former employee of Tiller, Luhra Tivis, confirmed this pattern in an article in 1994 (1):

I witnessed evidence of the brutal, cold blooded murder of over 600 viable, healthy babies at seven, eight and nine months gestation. A very, very few of these babies, less than 2%, were handicapped[.] … I thought I was pro-choice and I was glad to be working in an abortion clinic. I thought I was helping provide a noble service to women in crisis. … I was instructed to falsify the age of the babies in medical records. I was required to lie to the mothers over the phone, as they scheduled their appointments, and to tell them that they were not ‘too far along’ Then I had to note, in the records that Dr. Tiller’s needle had successfully pierced the walls of the baby’s heart, injecting the poison what brought death[.]

Doctor Tiller had a crematorium in his clinic – the same type used by funeral homes – where he burned the bodies of the aborted babies.

The Planned Parenthood clinic where Abby Johnson worked did not do third-trimester abortions. But they would refer women to abortionists who did. According to Johnson, “… it is false to say the women who choose late term abortion do so because of medical reasons. We referred hundreds of women to abort their babies after 24 weeks…not ONE was for medical reasons.”

Midtown Hospital used to be the largest abortion clinic in Georgia. It was endorsed by Planned Parenthood and was a member of the National Abortion Federation – right up until its closure by officials for filthy conditions and poor patient care. One employee said, in an affidavit (2):

On April 18, 1998, at approximately 7:00 a.m., I witnessed a patient deliver an intact fetus in the toilet of a bathroom in the waiting room area. After expelling the baby and the afterbirth, the patient walked to the operating room because there were no wheelchairs. I opened the fetal sac so that the fetus could be weighed. The weight was approximately 3029 grams [over 6 pounds, 10 ounces]. It was a very big fetus. My impression is that at Midtown Hospital a procedure will be done at any gestational age as long as the patient has the money.

A Washington Post author stated in an article about late-term abortionist Anthony Carhart that all the abortions he performed “involved fetuses with anomalies.”

But sidewalk counselors outside his facility told a different story.

Dr. Grace Morrison, of the Vitae Foundation, states:

I have been protesting at Carhart’s on Mondays since December 6. During this time, I have had the opportunity to speak with over twenty-five mothers who were there seeking late-term abortions.

There has only been ONE case of a mother seeking a late-term abortion because of a poor prenatal diagnosis. The other mothers were reportedly there because, even at this advanced stage in their pregnancy, they decided that the baby was an inconvenience.

One mother, Kiesha, who came to Carhart’s for a late-term abortion decided to save her baby. She just gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl.

There are no reliable statistics on how many late-term abortions there are or the reasons they are done. Reporter Richard Cohen puts the issue into perspective (3):

It turns out, though, that no one really knows what percentage of abortions are late-term. No one keeps figures. But my Washington Post colleague David Brown looked behind the purported figures and the purported rationale for these abortions and found something other than medical crises of one sort or another. After interviewing doctors who performed late-term abortions and surveying the literature, Brown — a physician himself — wrote: “These doctors say that while a significant number of their patients have late abortions for medical reasons, many others — perhaps the majority — do not.”…In the latter stages of pregnancy, the word abortion does not quite suffice; we are talking about the killing of the fetus — and, too often, not for any urgent medical reason.

baby-bornThird-trimester abortions may be rare compared to abortions in the first trimester, but they are happening. Third-trimester abortions for elective, social reasons are also happening. There are few reliable statistics available, but anecdotal evidence proves that these abortions are being done. As more abortion providers leave the field and come forward to tell their stories, and more clinics are inspected and regulated, more stories of late-term abortions will most likely emerge.

  1. Luhra Tivis “Where is the Real Violence?” Celebrate Life. Sept/Oct 1994
  2. “Men Behaving Really Badly” Life Insight, A Publication of the NCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, volume 9, no. 8 October 1998
  3. Richard Cohen “A New Look at Late-Term Abortion: A Rigid Refusal to Even Consider Society’s Interest in the Matter that Endangers Abortion Rights” Washington Post Sept. 24, 1996.