Monday, June 13, 2011

Limiting Abortion Care One Uninformed Law at a Time

I was looking through the news today for inspiration on my post, and I saw articles about states that are currently passing new limits on abortion. Iowa could approve the tightest restrictions in the country at 18 weeks. Alabama just passed a fetal pain bill that puts a limit at 20 weeks.

I'm amazed by those who make medical claims to gain support for these bills, as if they had actual medical training. They irresponsibly pass their opinions off as fact.

In the article I linked to by the Iowa Independent, they quoted the Executive Director of the Iowa Right to Life Committee as saying, "We’re not talking about abortion, we’re talking about infanticide. We’re talking about viable children who can live outside the womb." At 18 weeks?! There's a lot of debate over viability, but the likelihood of viability at 18 weeks (like of it even being biologically possible) isn't high. I am honestly surprised someone will go on record claiming that it is.

Then there's this gem from an Alabama state senator, Scott Beason: "It's clear that a baby at 20 weeks experiences pain. There's no doubt about that." It's clear, is it? Where is your data to back up the claim that a fetus experiences pain at 20 weeks? How is this man even qualified to make such a statement? Oh right, he isn't; he has a degree in Geology.

I'm tired of having to hear antis make these claims. They offer no proof to back any of it up. They don't have medical training, yet they get away with it because the uninformed will go along with it. When will our laws start being passed with facts to back them up?


  1. I'd go beyond saying that viability at 18 weeks "isn't high". It's not debated: it doesn't exist. Pregnancies prior to 20 weeks are not considered births if they deliver early. 18 weekers do not survive. 22 weekers do not survive. 23 is the absolute bottom edge of where a Level III nursery will even try resucitation, and only then at the family's insistence.

    I hate it when lawmakers think they can practice medicine.

  2. Meg, thanks for your comment! We caught a typo in that sentence that made it sound like experts are in any sort of disagreement over "viability at 18 weeks". As you say, there is no disagreement there -- viability does not exist at 18 weeks. In the article cited, maternal-fetal medicine providers differed on their professional perspectives on a viability threshold, but no one put it under 22 weeks (and those who said 22 weeks were just 2% of the respondents). The majority said 23 weeks (37%) or 24 weeks (55%).

    (Interestingly, although those providers' opinions of viability thresholds did not statistically differ based on what kind of facility they practiced in, it DID differ based on the provider's gender: men tended to cite lower thresholds than women.)

  3. Another really important thing obscured by these laws (and even by this study's abstract since it doesn't have space for a review of concepts) is that "viability" is not a single biological time-point! The availability and accessibility of intensive neonatal medical support vary widely, as do fetal health and development of capabilities prior to birth. So a "threshold of viability" isn't some line where 0% survive before and 100% survive after; for example, at 25 or 26 weeks and even with medical support, less than half of births survive. These things aren't black-and-white and we put many people's health at risk by pretending they are. An accurate judgment about viability can only be made using careful consideration of the patient's condition and the fetus's condition...NOT a blanket statement made by a legislator.

  4. (And RV, sorry for getting ranty! I totally hear you on how frustrating this is.)

  5. @Meg - I wasn't sure how far to go into absolutes on the 18 week viability since I'm not a doctor, but I didn't think it was really possible.

  6. Breaking news: Antis eschew facts in favor of bullshit. More at 11.

    This just doesn't surprise me anymore :(


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.