An article I previously wrote for Live Action revealed that most of the time, late-term abortions are done on healthy mothers with healthy babies. In the course of my research, I discovered another phenomenon: women who repeatedly have late-term abortions.
According to a study sponsored by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (1), which was founded by Planned Parenthood, 30%, or almost one third, of women having late-term abortions have had at least one previous late-term abortion.
The study surveyed hundreds of women to discover the reasons why they had second-trimester abortions (abortions done between 14 and 27 weeks) and discovered the following:
- 68% had no pregnancy symptoms
- 58% didn’t confirm the pregnancy until the second trimester
- 45% had trouble finding an abortion provider
- 37% were unsure of date of last menstrual period
- 30% had difficulty deciding on abortion
The numbers do not add up to 100% because women were allowed to select more than one answer. As we can see, the reasons for these abortions had nothing to do with the woman’s health or even with a disability in the child. They were done because the woman did not want to be pregnant at the time – ultimately, for convenience. In fact, the study did not cite a single case of abortion motivated by health problems.
It also found that 30% of women who came in for a second-trimester abortion had had at least one previous second-trimester abortion. Nearly one third of the women who had second-trimester abortions became pregnant again, waited until the second trimester a second time, and then aborted again. The statistics indicate that some women may be using abortion for birth control. The study does not address the actual number of abortions that these repeat aborters had. So we don’t know how common it is for women to have three or four or more late-term abortions.
There are also testimonies from abortion providers. Christina Dunigan quotes an article in The Spectator in which a pro-choice columnist discusses a letter she received from a clinic worker:
Every so often, a letter arrives in a columnist’s mailbag that throws a hand grenade right into the middle of a long-held view. That happened to me last week following my article in which I urged caution before lowering the time limit on abortion from 24 to 20 weeks. The letter came from a Registered General Nurse named Kay who works on a gynecological ward that regularly deals with late-term abortions. She apologized for the “unpleasant and upsetting aspects of her letter” but felt her points needed to be said. I agree, and felt it also warranted a wider audience. Apparently, at 20 weeks, tablets can be given to kill the fetus prior to expulsion. But at 24 weeks it is sufficiently strong to survive the treatment and many are born with signs of life.
In Kay’s own words:
It is all too easy for people to picture a clump of cells or mush. People don’t want to picture perfectly-formed miniature babies and I don’t blame them. I was once the same. But having cut the umbilical cord on one who survived, then had to watch him gasp for breath for ten minutes on the side of a sink before he died, the sight will haunt me forever.
She then discusses the reasons for this abortion:
The reason given in this particular termination was that the mother’s current boyfriend had a toddler son who might get jealous of a new baby. It took them 21 weeks to come to that conclusion.
Kay discusses the emotional trauma and guilt that she and other nurses felt because of abortion live births. She also goes on to say, of the women getting these abortions:
There are girls who come back five or six times demanding terminations and they get them. How can someone coming in for their fifth termination be allowed to keep saying it is due to emotional distress? I should imagine in ten year’s time the emotional distress of being allowed to have five terminations is going to take its toll. What is going on?
Keep in mind that the abortions Kay supervised were late-term abortions.
It is easy to judge women who have repeat abortions, particularly those who have repeat late-term abortions. But as pro-lifers, we are called to reach out to these women with compassion. Many of them are living out-of-control lives and struggling with mental and emotional problems and lack of self-respect. Mental health professional Dr. Philip Ney, in his book Deeply Damaged, describes how some women respond to the trauma of abortion by compulsively repeating the experience:
“Tragedy is repeated not because we do not understand, but because we are trying to understand.” Meaning that a woman is reliving her abortion experience trying to resolve [it] — a replacement child, but then realizes that the same reason she had an abortion before is still present.
Father Frank Pavone calls for compassion in dealing with such women:
Repeat abortions can be repulsive even to people who call themselves “pro-choice” and even to those who work in abortion mills. Sometimes the reaction is exasperated, indignant, “How could she do that??!!” But we should change the question and ask instead, “How can I help you to heal?” That question expresses the heart of the pro-life movement, a movement that knows that the destiny of mother and child are forever intertwined and that we can’t love one without loving the other. (2)
1. “Second Trimester Abortion: Logistics and Lack of Symptoms are Factors” in Perspectives of Sexual and Reproductive Health Volume 38 No 2, June 2006.
2. Father Frank A. Pavone “Ending Abortion: Not Just Fighting It” (New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Corp, 2006) 73