Late Term Abortion Debate

History and Debate of Late Term Abortion

Late-term abortion, which the news media also refers to as partial-birth abortion, generally refers to any intentional abortion procedure occurring after 20 weeks of gestation. The point that experts consider pregnancy to be late-term is one of the biggest debates involving this subject. Some experts believe that 12 weeks and later is late term, others state 16 weeks, 20 weeks or even later. A common belief is that any abortion where the child has a viable chance to survive out of the womb is certainly a late term abortion. The problem with this theory is that it varies widely from one pregnancy to another.

Late Term Abortion Laws

Countries around the world have different laws regarding late-term abortions. Canada, for instance, has no law regarding the gestational age of the child and when abortions can be performed. Of the 152 countries with records on hand, the following observations can be made:

  • 54 of these countries ban abortion except in cases where the mother's life is at risk
  • 44 countries ban late term abortion after a certain gestational age
  • 2 countries (The Netherlands and The United States) have regulations in place having to do with viability.
  • The remaining 52 countries, including Canada, have no laws regarding gestational age and abortion.

The United States allows each state to make certain restrictions on late-term, or in this case post-viability, abortions. Due to these rights granted to the states, 36 states outright ban any late-term abortions that are not to save the life of the mother. Another four states will allow late-term abortion only when the mother's life or her health is at risk. This is another cause of controversy because arguments can be made for or against abortions that are conducted for the mental health of the mother. Many pro-choice supporters feel that all of these laws are unconstitutional, however.

Another 13 states ban abortion after a particular number of weeks of gestation has taken place. In most cases this is 24 week, but it does vary state to state. A Supreme Court case, "Webster v. Reproductive Health Services," determined that in these cases a physician must test for viability before the abortion can take place. Ten of these states further require a second doctor to verify the test results before the abortion can occur.

A law that is in place for nine states says that a second doctor must be on hand during these late-term abortions, in case the fetus is born alive. The Supreme Court has found this to be an acceptable statute for the abortion law because the doctor's right to practice is not formally being infringed upon in any way.

Abortion Medical Procedures

Three medical procedures are most commonly used when performing late-term abortions, which include:

  • Dilation and evacuation - This procedure dilates the cervix and the fetus is surgically removed.
  • Early labor induction- Medications are given intravenously to the mother to induce early labor.
  • Intact dilation and extract - This is the most controversial method, this is where the fetus is removed through the cervix in several parts, first removing the body, and later the head.

Doctors use different methods to make the procedure go as smoothly as possible. The intact dilation and extraction method has been all but outlawed in the United States because of arguments that it is inhumane.

For Late Term Abortion

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Against Late Term Abortion

Con
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