This week the anti-abortion group Live Action released a new video that purports to expose Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of just four abortion providers in America who will provide abortions late into the second trimester.
But the video, most certainly edited for maximum sinister effect, doesn’t portray Carhart doing anything illegal. Even if this woman’s death is attributed to complications relating to an abortion procedure, such deaths are rare. People, even under the best medical care, sometimes die from complications following a surgery or other medical treatment. Medical treatment can be scary — and Live Action’s videos make it seem worse than it is.
In fact, death from abortion is rare — so rare that Live Action could only present this one woman’s case. Death from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, on the other hand, is less rare. The United States ranks 50th in maternal deaths worldwide, some 12.7 for every 100,000 live births — though some estimate the real number could be twice that.
But the videos Live Action produces — the Carhart one is published just a week after Live Action tried to accuse later-term abortion providers in New York’s Bronx borough and Washington D.C. of also providing legal second-trimester abortions — work very hard to link the standard practice of care to the horrific and clearly illegal conditions of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. But Roe v. Wade already has clear guidelines for abortion.
For the stage subsequent to viability the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.
That is, states can restrict abortion after 28 weeks, but they aren’t barred from it. The Live Action video demonstrates Carhart is aware of this and even notes that Maryland law allows abortion up to 28 weeks.
As Michelle Goldberg wrote, anti-abortion groups like Live Action are really working to sway the public against second-trimester abortions, because they know that the American public is already squeamish about the practice.
The most important thing to understand, however, is that women make the decision to abort in the second trimester of an abortion for a variety of reasons, but because it is so rare, it’s often because women have discovered that something has gone horrifically wrong in their pregnancies.
Kate Sheppard documented this in 2011 for Mother Jones, when she interviewed a woman who had an abortion at 29 weeks. Dana Weinstein talks about how, though she always thought about herself as pro-choice, she never imagined she would have a late-term abortion.
“We wanted her and loved her,” Weinstein told Mother Jones. “In some ways I feel a little bit lucky, in that she was so sick that the decision was almost made for us. I don’t wrestle with guilt.”
These are complicated issues, and women don’t arrive at these decisions lightly. Making an abortion seem scary and illegal when it isn’t is just trafficking fear.
[Woman on strings via Shutterstock]