During the final debate of the 2016 election, Republican nominee Donald Trump relied on right-wing media myths to allege that Hillary Clinton supports so-called “partial-birth” abortion. In reality, “partial birth” is a medically and legally inaccurate term invented by anti-choice groups -- a fact media have highlighted by giving individuals who have had late-term abortions a platform to both describe their experiences and, in some cases, directly refute Trump’s misinformed descriptions of the process.
At Final Presidential Debate, Trump Alleged That Clinton Supports So-Called “Partial-Birth” Abortion
The Guardian: Trump Used “Scare Rhetoric” About Late-Term Abortion In Third Debate. During the final presidential debate, in response to a question about “partial-birth abortion,” Republican nominee Donald Trump endorsed the right-wing media myth and falsely alleged that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supports abortion procedures that “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month [of pregnancy.]” The Guardian reported that in response, Clinton “condemned Donald Trump’s ‘scare rhetoric’ on abortion” and explained that “her stance on the issue was about protecting a woman’s right to choose, while pointing out that late-term abortions were rare.” [The Guardian, 10/19/16]
“Partial-Birth” Abortion Is A Nonmedical And Fabricated Term Coined By Anti-Choice Groups To Vilify And Stigmatize Abortion. After the Supreme Court decided to hear a case about the constitutionality of the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2006, NPR’s Julie Rovner explained that “‘partial-birth’ is not a medical term” but is instead “a political one.” As explained by Rovner, “partial-birth” abortion is a misleading reference to the previously used late-term abortion procedure known as a “‘dilation and extraction,’ or D&X.” Rovner continued that the term “was first coined” in 1995 “by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC),” an anti-choice group that admitted in a magazine interview that it created the term to “foster a growing opposition to abortion.” Rolling Stone reported on October 5 that Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s allegation that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton supports so-called “partial-birth” abortion is inaccurate because “‘partial birth’ [abortion] isn’t actually a thing.” By deploying the term to describe any late-term abortion -- a procedure often performed “when something has gone terribly wrong,” anti-choice groups “vilify women” who are often facing the “loss of a wanted pregnancy.” [Rolling Stone, 10/5/16; NPR, 2/21/06]
Right-Wing Media Help Trump Campaign Push False Claims About “The Extremism Of The Democratic Party On Abortion.” During the October 5 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway discussed Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s attack on Clinton’s stance on abortion during the vice presidential debate, including his allegation that Clinton supports “partial birth abortion.” She called it “an incredible moment to show the extremism of the Democratic Party.” Conway promoted a number of myths about abortion -- including the medically disputed allegation that fetal pain exists early enough to justify a 20-week abortion ban -- but in particular she emphasized that “the Democratic Party platform on abortion is basically anytime, anyone, anywhere” while mentioning “late-term abortion” and citing hypothetical abortions in the “seventh, eighth, and ninth month” of pregnancy. Fox co-host Brian Kilmeade did not challenge Conway’s false assertions about abortion and instead asked her if “there’s a right way to message” on those claims. From Fox & Friends:
AINSLEY EARHARDT (HOST): Kellyanne, as a woman, why isn't the mainstream talking about how Tim Kaine flip-flopped on this controversial issue?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Oh because abortion is like a religion to many of them -- and their adherents -- Ainsley, last night was a moment I’ve been waiting for literally for decades. I’ve been working on messaging in the pro-life movement for decades. And finally we have somebody running for president or vice president who articulated it perfectly. Go read the Democratic Party platform on abortion: It is basically abortion anytime, anyone, anywhere. It is not the safe, legal, and rare stance of President Bill Clinton. There’s no exceptions for sex-selection -- you can basically find out the sex of your baby and decide for that reason only you’d like to terminate your pregnancy.
Donald Trump has said if he’s president he will sign into law the Pain Capable bill, which basically is non-partisan scientists and doctors saying that at about 20 weeks a fetus can feel pain, so you should not have an abortion after that. Abortion -- late-term abortion -- they were talking about the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment basically means no taxpayer funding for abortion. I don’t pay for your abortion, you don’t pay for my Viagra -- not to get so personal. But, it sounds like a pretty good deal, it sounds like fair to the taxpayer. But I thought this was an incredible moment to show the extremism of the Democratic Party on abortion. This is probably the only place you’ll hear it today.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): So Kellyanne, just to build on this for a second. You say there’s a right way to message it. But do you also say, no matter what your beliefs are, if you got out and say “I’m going to overturn Roe v. Wade,” that that’ll be also something that will hurt any candidate
CONWAY: Well, that’s why Tim Kaine was trying to go there and pretend that Donald Trump and Mike Pence are against women. This is a very stale talking point on their side and the fact is that people believe that the states should decide their health care policy and many other policies, frankly. And this is no exception. I mean, what Roe v. Wade does -- did -- was it made it federal policy. It made federal policy many years ago. I think that when you chip away, you look at very few Americans in this county, those who call themselves pro-choice included, they say: “I’m pro-choice, but I’m not pro that -- what do you mean seventh, eighth, and ninth month? No.” I mean, if this happened --
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): So that’s the point?
CONWAY: That’s the point, is how extreme. Because they love to say -- to Ainsley’s point about quote “women’s issues.” They talk about women’s issues and it’s really euphemism for abortion. They’ll talk about women’s health and they really mean abortion. So forcing them to even say that word -- I think, we at the Trump/Pence campaign thinks all issues are women’s issues. I've been doing this for 28 years. I've never a single time heard the phrase men's issues. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/5/16]
Other Media Outlets Highlight Personal Stories To Debunk Trump’s Harmful Lies About Late-Term Abortion
ThinkProgress: Late-Term Abortion Is “Nothing Like Described By Trump,” Says Woman Who Had Medically Necessary Abortion. Alyson Draper originally shared her experience with late-term abortion on Facebook, before giving interviews to the media. In her original account, Draper refuted the misinformation about late-term abortion cited during the debate, noting that the experience was “nothing like described by Trump.” As ThinkProgress noted, Draper was carrying a wanted pregnancy but made the decision to undergo a late-term abortion due to severe fetal abnormalities as well as her own health. Draper said that she publicly shared her late-term abortion story “because I wanted people to understand that late-term abortions aren’t what Trump described, and that women can end up in this terrible situation who desperately wanted a baby”:
A woman’s story about her late-term abortion is going viral after she shared it on Facebook to point out that it was “nothing like described by Trump.”
Alyson Draper posted her story during the third presidential debate on Wednesday night, which included a question about late-term abortions. Her post has already been shared over 111,000 times.
According to BuzzFeed, Draper was 40 years old when she became pregnant with twins through in vitro fertilization. She said it was “the most wanted and planned pregnancy ever.”
But at 22 weeks, she learned that one of her twins had died in the womb, and the other’s (sic) had a birth defect known as Spina bifida, a birth where the backbone doesn’t form normally, and would only live for a few days on life support.
“Our baby’s case was so severe that the entire brain was pulled down and formed on the back, and the spine was exposed all the way down to the lumbar vertebrae at the bottom,” Draper told BuzzFeed.
And due to the dead fetus, Draper’s own health was also at risk.
Draper, who wrote that she did not want to have an abortion, nonetheless noted that it was “done very gently, by Caesarean section, leaving the babies in their amniotic sacs.”
Her account stands in stark contrast to how Donald Trump described a late-term abortion as “[ripping] the baby out of the womb” during the debate on Wednesday night.
“I shared my story because I wanted people to understand that late-term abortions aren’t what Trump described, and that women can end up in this terrible situation who desperately wanted a baby,” Draper said. [ThinkProgress, 10/22/16]
NY Times: Trump’s Description Of “Late-Term Abortion Is The Stuff Of ‘80s Slasher Films” And Is “Void Of Consideration For Women, Medical Professionals Or The Truth.” After Trump’s comments in the third presidential debate, The New York Times ran an op-ed by Meredith Isaksen about her decision to terminate a pregnancy after the 20th week. In the op-ed, titled “Late-Term Abortion Was the Right Choice for Me,” Isaksen explained her decision to abort her pregnancy after the 20th week after discovering that the developing fetus “was missing half his heart” and was “very unlikely [to] survive delivery.” Isaksen wrote that to “Trump and politicians like him, a late-term abortion is the stuff of ’80s slasher films” -- a depiction that is “void of consideration for women, medical professionals or the truth” -- and concluded that she had no doubts that “we made the right decision for our family”:
I was 21 weeks pregnant when a doctor told my husband and me that our second little boy was missing half his heart. It had stopped growing correctly around five weeks gestation, but the abnormality was not detectable until the 20-week anatomy scan. It was very unlikely that our baby would survive delivery, and if he did, he would ultimately need a heart transplant.
In the days that followed, after the poking and prodding, after the meetings with pediatric cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and geneticists, my husband and I decided to terminate our pregnancy. I was 22 weeks pregnant when they wheeled me into the operating room, two weeks shy of viability in the state of California.
To Donald J. Trump and politicians like him, a late-term abortion is the stuff of ’80s slasher films. “You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother,” Mr. Trump said during Wednesday night’s debate, a description void of consideration for women, medical professionals or the truth. Such politicians would have you believe that women like me shouldn’t get to make the choice I made. That our baby, despite his tiny misshapen heart and nonexistent aorta, should have a chance “to live,” even though that life might have lasted mere minutes. Even though that life would have been excruciatingly painful. These politicians are ignorant of the sacrifices and blessings that come with carrying a pregnancy (let alone a nonviable pregnancy). They do not understand that a majority of women who have late-term abortions are terminating desperately wanted pregnancies.
Many women have made the kind of difficult decision I had to make. When it happens to you, they come out of the woodwork. Friends, neighbors, colleagues. A friend of my mother-in-law said to me early on, “You will always carry this loss, but someday, it won’t define you.”
As the two-year anniversary of my abortion approaches, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we made the right decision for our family — and that our government has absolutely no place in the anguish which accompanies a late-term abortion, except to ensure that women and their families have the right to make their choice safely and privately. [The New York Times, 10/20/16]
Yahoo Beauty: Trump’s Description Of Late-Term Abortion “Does Not Reflect The Reality” Of The Procedure And “Fails To Recognize” The Pain Behind The Decision To Have One. Sharing her experience with facing a possible decision to undergo a late-term abortion, Yahoo Beauty contributing writer Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy highlighted the inaccuracy of Trump’s comments during the debate. Gerson Uffalussy explained that after learning she might be carrying a nonviable fetus, she was faced with the possibility of needing a late-term abortion. She continued that Trump’s description of late-term abortion not only “does not reflect the reality” it also “fails to recognize the unimaginably difficult and painful emotional realities of the families who find themselves making the choice … based on what they and their physicians decide is best for them and their families.” From Yahoo Beauty:
It was clear that the genetic counselor was trying to phrase things in as delicate a way as possible, but the information she was giving me was startlingly clear. Depending on what we learned in the ultrasound with the specialist, I would potentially be facing the decision of carrying a fetus that might not be able to survive outside the womb or having a late-term abortion.
I cried myself to sleep each night between the evening my ob-gyn had called and the morning of my diagnostic ultrasound.
And it is this situation, this excruciating heartache, that Donald Trump clearly fails to understand based on his comments about late-term abortion in the third and final presidential debate Wednesday evening in Las Vegas.
What Trump described during the debate not only does not reflect the reality of what late-term abortion actually is, but it also fails to recognize the unimaginably difficult and painful emotional realities of the families who find themselves making the choice to have this procedure based on what they and their physicians decide is best for them and their families.
I was remarkably lucky — my fetus checked out as normal during the subsequent screening and testing we had done, and at 37 weeks, I gave birth (after a scary delivery complication) to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. But I will never forget the 48 hours during which I had to mentally prepare myself for being faced with a decision that no one ever imagines herself having to make.
As a reporter who covers issues pertaining to reproductive and sexual health, I have had the opportunity to interview a number of women who’ve had late-term abortions. The one striking commonality their stories all share is their reflection that the circumstances surrounding their decision to terminate were all ones that they could never have imagined. [Yahoo Beauty, 10/20/16]
Bustle: Woman Describes Late-Term Abortion, Says “Politicians Question[ing]” Her Choice “Has Been Painful And Infuriating.” After terminating her pregnancy after 20 weeks following diagnoses that the fetus was likely incapable of surviving after birth, Karen Agatone wrote an op-ed for Bustle describing her decision as one made out of compassion and medical necessity. As Agatone wrote, although she and her husband “wanted to hang on, imagining that maybe the doctors had it all wrong,” they ultimately decided that as parents they “could not continue to plan for her to have no quality of life.” Agatone urged readers to consider the dangerous anti-choice laws that make abortions -- including late-term procedures -- more difficult to access. She wrote: “To watch politicians question my ability to make an educated yet devastating choice for my body and family has been painful and infuriating.” From Bustle:
The days after the diagnosis and my decision to end my pregnancy were blurry and painful. I barely ate or slept, thinking about the gravity of our choice, but it was one I knew we had to make. Selfishly, we wanted to hang on, imagining that maybe the doctors had it all wrong and everything would magically be OK. But every time we started thinking about what could be, we remembered the images we saw firsthand on her ultrasound, and the magnitude of what the specialists told us. There was no denying how sick Evelyn was. As parents, it was our job to plan for our child to have the best quality of life, but we could not continue to plan for her to have no quality of life.
As I adjust to life after saying goodbye to Evelyn, everything feels a little more personal. To watch politicians question my ability to make an educated yet devastating choice for my body and family has been painful and infuriating. The decision that was made for my baby was made after days upon days of difficult research, and after consulting the medical opinions of some of the best specialists in the country. To be scolded by anti-choice protesters and politicians alike about “the value of life” is something I will never get used to. I am Evelyn's mother, and no one valued her life more than I did. No one. Hearing friends say to me, “But what you did isn't really an abortion” undermines the heartbreaking road I have traveled. The choice I made was because I had a pregnancy crisis, which is why any woman chooses to have an abortion.
Despite how hard it is to hear the opinions and judgments about my family's very personal decision, it's much harder to stay silent and let those who don't truly understand what it's like to hear that your unborn child has no chance at life speak — or legislate — on the matter. So I will continue to share what it means to have a second-trimester abortion, because I believe that any woman, mother, or family could face this heartbreaking choice. And if they do, I want to ensure they still have a right to choose what is best for them and their baby, just like I did. [Bustle, 9/19/16]
Jezebel: Woman Who Had Late-Term Abortion Out Of Medical Necessity Described Being “Angry That We Can’t Just Have An Honest Conversation About It.” In June 2016, Jezebel’s Jia Tolentino conducted an anonymous interview with a woman who had just undergone a medically necessary late-term abortion for a nonviable pregnancy. As Tolentino explained, because of restrictions on late-term abortions in the woman’s home state, she was forced to fly to Colorado and back before delivering the nonviable fetus in a labor lasting over 24 hours. The woman told Tolentino that “if the doctors thought there was any way he might make it, I would have taken that chance” but that “he would likely live a very short time until he choked and died.” The woman continued that she elected to have a late-term abortion because she “couldn’t put him through that suffering when we had the option to minimize his pain as much as possible.” Towards the interview’s conclusion the woman noted that she couldn’t “help but think about other people who have been through late-term abortions” and that it made her “angry that we can’t just have an honest conversation about it.” From Jezebel:
In the week previous to this second appointment, I had taken a freelance job just to keep my mind off the waiting. So I was out of town when my husband talked to the geneticist, who said that there was no diagnosis, but that any outcomes would be severe. That’s when he realized that from a medical standpoint, the situation was bad, and terminal. He didn’t realize initially what that meant in terms of our options—that the laws in New York meant we couldn’t do anything in the state. I was shocked too, for some reason, when he told me. I thought, “We live in New York, this is crazy.”
So then we talked about Colorado, and then I came back from that job, and we went back to the doctor’s and got the final, final diagnosis.
This baby was unviable, basically. That’s what they say. They say that the baby is “incompatible with life.”
Did you consider carrying to term despite that?
This is another fun side note. I was already going to have to have a C-section no matter what, because two years ago, I’d had brain surgery. And my doctor checked with the neurosurgeon, who wouldn’t sign off on a natural birth. They were afraid that if I pushed, something might go on in my head, so the delivery had to be a C-section. And so we were considering putting me through major abdominal surgery for a baby that’s not going to make it, or risking that I go into natural labor and something pops in my head and I die, basically.
To be clear, if the doctors thought there was any way he might make it, I would have taken that chance. I truly would have put myself through anything. What I came to accept was the fact that I would never get to be this little guy’s mother—that if we came to term, he would likely live a very short time until he choked and died, if he even made it that far. This was a no-go for me. I couldn’t put him through that suffering when we had the option to minimize his pain as much as possible.
Yeah. I can’t help but think about other people who have been through late-term abortions. I know that it’s not common, but it does happen. It makes me feel angry that we can’t just have an honest conversation about it—that we can’t talk about it scientifically or practically. It all has to be talked about in these couched terms that are ultimately religious and it just makes me crazy.
Another thing I want to say is that yes, I had this very particular, horrible situation—but if I had had an abortion at 20 weeks just because I didn’t feel ready, that should be okay, too. Like it or not, all of our rights are intertwined. Maybe there’s some woman who has had four abortions and maybe that feels really wrong to you. But my rights are wrapped up with hers, so I have to fight like fuck for her to have as many as she wants—not just for her sake, but for mine, too. If I ever have a daughter, the way things are currently going, she’s going to be fucked if she ever goes through this. [Jezebel, 6/15/16]
Huff. Post: “The Option For A Safe Late-Term Abortion Was A Blessing” And “I Would Never Make A Different Choice, Not In A Million Years.” In October 2015 Huffington Post column, Lindsey Averill explained that “the option for a safe late-term abortion was a blessing” and she “would never make a different choice, not in a million years.” Averill and her husband discovered that her pregnancy was nonviable shortly after 21 weeks and made the decision to abort soon after, noting that it was not only “the best choice” but that for them, “it was the only choice.” From The Huffington Post:
A little over a year ago, my husband, Randy and I were all smiles as the nurse in the perinatologist’s office called my name and then ushered us into an exam room. We were there for an anatomy ultrasound. I was 21 weeks pregnant. I already knew I was having a little girl. We were throwing around names like Madison and Lexi.
It wasn’t fine.
Her brain wasn’t fully formed and there was also something wrong with her heart. As the doctor explained, I stayed solid. I asked questions - clinical, doctor’s kid questions - and then my voice started to shake as I asked, “So, there is no chance that this baby is healthy?” Then I apologized for getting upset. Ridiculous.
In true doctor speak he replied, “Well, there is always a chance — but if I had to make the call, I’d say this development is not normal.”
The doctor in New York was certain. Part of my baby’s brain was missing, all the vessels into her heart were fused. She didn’t have a nose and her potential for life after birth was called both limited and painful.
I aborted my baby to end the pain, her future pain, my pain, my husband’s pain, the pain of the people who loved us. I aborted her because if I carried her to term she would have died and taken my sanity with her. I aborted my baby because it was the best choice. As far as I was concerned it was the only choice.
Letting her go still hurts. And so far there is not a happy ending here — we haven’t gone on to have a healthy baby. But there is one thing that I am certain of. The option for a safe late-term abortion was a blessing for me. I feel no shame about the choice I made and I would never make a different choice, not in a million years. [The Huffington Post, 10/8/15]
Fusion: Women’s Accounts Highlight That “Donald Trump Has No Idea What [Late-Term Abortion] Feels Like, And He Doesn’t Seem To Care To Learn.” In an October 25 article for Fusion, Marisa Kabas talked to four women about their decisions to have medically necessary late-term abortions, reporting that their accounts demonstrate that “Donald Trump has no idea what [late-term abortion] feels like, and he doesn’t care to learn”:
Donald Trump has no idea what [late-term abortion] feels like, and he doesn’t seem to care to learn.
During the final presidential debate last week, the Republican candidate demonstrated a startling lack of empathy for women who’ve had late-term abortions and a fundamental ignorance of when and why these procedures are administered. Many watching the political jousting at home were blown away by Trump’s assertion that late-term abortion providers will “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.”
This level of ignorance would be almost funny if not for the possibility that the lives of women and children could soon be in his hands.
After my conversations with four of these women, all of whom live in states where late-term abortion is legal to a certain point, I learned that Trump’s comments triggered post-traumatic stress and dredged up heartbreaking memories.
In a phone conversation with Susan, who requested that I only use her first name and whose story I mentioned above, she remarked how “he used the most inflammatory language possible” to describe her “horrible, heartbreaking, devastating experience.” But she said she also couldn’t help but marvel at his ignorance. “In a weird way, I wanted to laugh,” she said. “I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ What is an abortion three days before the due day? It doesn’t even exist.”
Trump’s comments didn’t just make Elise angry—they spurred her into action. Elise, who requested that I change her name to protect her privacy, posted on Facebook the very next day to “come out” (as she put it) to her friends for the first time about the story of her own late-term abortion.
Twenty-one weeks into her pregnancy, Aislinn Woody was given the heartbreaking news that if she attempted to give birth, her child would certainly die in the process. He was diagnosed with arthrogryposis multiplex, which meant every joint in his body was fused in full extension. Being pushed through the birth canal would cause every bone in his body to break, and would lead to death by either blood loss or suffocation. To make the situation even more dire, Aislinn, then 26, was told carrying to term could cause life-threatening damage to her uterus.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of Valerie R. Peterson’s abortion. This milestone made it all the more difficult for the and single mother of two teenage daughters to stomach Trump’s comments. [Fusion, 10/25/16]
The Daily Beast: Woman's Abortion Story “Went Viral” In Response To Trump’s Comments During The Third Debate. Lindsey Paradiso made the decision to have a late-term abortion after discovering that her daughter had minimal chances of survival, having developed a growth that “was encroaching on [her] lungs, eye, and brain.” Paradiso wrote about her experience in a February blog post, but reshared it on Facebook after Trump made his comments during the third presidential debate. The Daily Beast’s Katie Zavadski interviewed Paradiso after her Facebook post “went viral” and prompted both threats and praise. Despite some negative reactions, Paradiso affirmed that her choice to have a late-term abortion was the right one. From The Daily Beast:
Lindsey Paradiso and her husband were ecstatic to find out she was pregnant, naming their unborn daughter Omara Rose in January. On Feb. 1, their dreams started crashing down.
During a routine doctor’s visit, an odd bubble was found on the ultrasound. Soon after, they were told she had lymphangioma, a growth from her lymphatic system that was encroaching on Omara Rose’s lungs, eye, and brain. The chances of survival were minimal, and the life she would have was “not one I would wish on my worst enemy,” Paradiso wrote at the time. They decided to induce labor early, to give the parents a chance to hold her and say goodbye.
It wasn’t until Paradiso saw the last presidential debate that she decided to tell her story. She started having a panic attack, feeling nauseous, getting tunnel vision. And she told herself, “Lindsey, you have to tell the truth.”
On the first night, Paradiso—who runs a photography company and has her number posted online—got a series of calls to her phone in the dead of the night. Others texted to tell her to go kill herself.
On the whole, however, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. She gets messages from pro-life women, many of them religious, who tell her that her case opened their eyes to the need for late-term abortions. She even gets messages from men who thank her for opening their eyes.
But the most meaningful responses, Paradiso said, have been from women who have been through similar situations. Some made the same decision as Paradiso and her husband, while others chose to let the child die naturally before delivering it. They’ve confirmed to Paradiso that she made the right choice. [The Daily Beast, 10/26/16]
USA Today: Church Pastor Shares Her Late-Term Abortion Story After Trump “Denigrated” Her Experience “To Advance His Political Agenda.” In an op-ed for USA Today, pastor Amy Butler wrote that she had been moved to share her experience having a late-term abortion after listening to Trump, “who has never been pregnant, ... used my own pain — deep, deep pain — to advance his political agenda.” Butler explained that she received news that her developing child was “severely developmentally compromised” and “would die at birth, if not before, after a very short, excruciatingly painful few minutes of life.” Doctors told Butler that carrying the pregnancy to term would also be “very dangerous” and possibly endanger her life. According to Butler, Trump “denigrated” her decision and his words “did not in anyway reflect” her experience:
What sent me to my computer to write is late-term abortion. As I heard Donald Trump talk about babies being “ripped” from their mothers’ wombs, as if ending a pregnancy is a reckless, irresponsible afterthought, my outrage poured down my face in angry tears. In those moments, Trump, who has never been pregnant and presumably has navigated this far in his life without undertaking any difficult, gut-wrenching, gray-area decisions, used my own pain — deep, deep pain — to advance his political agenda.
And then all the doctors came in the room together, stood around the bed, and told me that my baby was severely developmentally compromised; that she would die at birth, if not before, after a very short, excruciatingly painful few minutes of life; and that continuing the pregnancy to full term would be very dangerous for me.
“It’s your choice, of course,” they told me. “You can terminate the pregnancy and deliver the baby now, or wait.”
I went home that night and cried, like I did for months and months after that day, but I never had a second thought about the right thing to do. For me it was important that the baby not experience pain, and that we have a little ability to say our goodbyes in as safe and loving way as we could. It never even occurred to me that someone else — the government? — would have anything at all to say about my own gut-wrenching grief.
So, Mr. Trump, when you denigrated my experience with your political strategy, I was angry. I take issue with your characterization of my grief as a clear-cut morality test. The words you chose to use did not in any way reflect my experience of a terrible rending the day my heart broke.
I wish I never had to live through the loss of my child, but I am forever grateful for my personal decision being just that: mine. I had a choice, and I chose to make the hardest decision and carry the pain of that decision with me for my whole life to ensure that my child didn’t suffer. Others may characterize that choice as they wish — even presidential candidates seem to be doing that. But it’s my conviction that every woman deserves that right in a situation where there are no easy answers, no pious pronouncements, no political solutions that could ever, ever fix the gaping, aching emptiness in her arms. [USA Today, 10/28/16]
NY Daily News: Woman Who Had Late-Term Abortion Calls Trump’s Description “Irresponsible, Callous, Uniformed, [And] Ignorant.” Speaking to the New York Daily News, Robyn, who asked the paper not to use her last name, shared her “decision to terminate her pregnancy at 23 weeks after learning a water-filled cyst comprised about half her baby girl’s brain.” According to Robyn, although she and her husband wanted to continue the pregnancy, they decided to induce labor as “the viability of the baby’s survival dropped” with each test. Robyn told the Daily News that if given the chance, she’d tell Trump that “he has no idea” what people experience when having a late-term abortion, and that “he has no right to get between a doctor and a woman or couple on this decision”:
If the billionaire had bothered to actually talk to someone who’d had a late-term abortion, he might’ve encountered a story like that of Robyn, 42 — who in 2007 confronted one of the most painful decisions of her life.
“Honestly, I screamed obscenities at the TV,” she told the Daily News of Trump’s debate remarks. “I think that was an irresponsible, callous, uninformed, ignorant comment.”
Robyn, who asked to be identified only by her first name, made the heart-wrenching decision to terminate her pregnancy at 23 weeks after learning a water-filled cyst comprised about half her baby girl’s brain.
“I questioned our decision every step of the way. But with every test they performed, from the ultrasounds through to the MRI, the viability of the baby’s survival dropped,” she said. “My husband and I would drive in a random direction for what seemed like hours in silence and then discussing what our options were.”
Robyn ultimately chose to have doctors induce labor and deliver the child. Her daughter, weighing 23 ounces, lived for 23 seconds.
If given the opportunity to confront Trump on his abortion-rights stance, Robyn said, she’d “tell him that he has no idea how deeply this decision affects every woman that has to make it, and he has no right to get between a doctor and a woman or couple on this decision.” [New York Daily News, 10/25/16]
Elle: Experiences Of Women Who Get Late-Term Abortions Reveal The Impact Of Anti-Choice “Laws That Take A Profound Toll On Women.” For a November 2 article, Elle’s Sylvia A. Harvey interviewed multiple women who not only needed late-term abortions, but also had to surmount numerous logistical obstacles to obtain them due to anti-choice restrictions on abortion in their home states. As Harvey explained, several states ban abortion access after 20 weeks, meaning “women who learn of potentially lethal abnormalities at or after their 20-week ultrasound face extremely limited options.” In order to obtain an abortion past this point, these women must either “travel hundreds of miles across state lines” or be forced to “carry [their] non-viable fetus to term.” After Trump made his misguided comments during the debate, Harvey wrote that the women she interviewed expose “a little-explored corner of the debate over reproductive rights: laws that take a profound toll on women … who want to be mothers but who have been dealt a cruel hand denying them that possibility.” From Elle:
These laws effectively mean that many women who learn of potentially lethal abnormalities at or after their 20-week ultrasound face extremely limited options. They can travel hundreds of miles across state lines to seek abortions—often not a practical or financially feasible option. The Indiana ban, says Dr. Katherine McHugh, an ob-gyn who works in Indianapolis, “doesn't give [a mother] very much time to prepare.” McHugh often has to send women to Chicago—Illinois allows abortions up to 24 weeks—which means her patients have to scramble to cover the costs of child care, travel, and lodging.
Or a woman can carry her non-viable fetus to term only to face a stillbirth or watch her infant die soon after being born. “The emotional impact of knowing that your baby will die is different for every woman,” says McHugh. For those who choose to carry their fetuses to term, McHugh offers perinatal hospice care: Once born, the babies at such hospices are fed and cared for, but invasive procedures that might prolong suffering are not performed.
In the last presidential debate, when Donald Trump was asked about so-called partial-birth abortions, he claimed that a doctor can “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.” This does not happen. But the small number of women who seek late-term abortions each year expose a little-explored corner of the debate over reproductive rights: laws that take a profound toll on women, like Lynae, who want to be mothers but who have been dealt a cruel hand denying them that possibility. These are women who did not envision themselves considering an abortion, until a complicated pregnancy made them confront its financial, emotional, and political impact.
The 20-week abortion ban may not stand up to legal scrutiny in coming years. With Roe, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to ban abortions before viability, typically 24 to 26 weeks. Similar bans—in Arizona and Idaho—were struck down by federal courts in 2013 and 2015, respectively. And in Georgia, the American Civil Liberties Union is currently appealing a ruling upholding the law. But new states are pushing the bans: Bills are under consideration in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. If passed, this would extend 20-week abortion bans to a total of 19 states. [Elle, 11/2/16]
This piece has been updated to include accounts released after the initial date of publication.