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Oct 26 2016

Let Me Explain: Partial Birth Abortion Does NOT Exist

During the final debate, there was a discussion about abortion that took a mythical and ugly turn when Donald Trump claimed that women can abort a pregnancy in the ninth month. As a medical professional let me say this – that does not happen. Nor is there any procedure called a partial birth abortion, a term rejected by the American Congress of OB/GYN. It is a term that was created by the right wing anti-abortion movement to dehumanize women who have needed one. A baby is either born or it’s not, it cannot be “partially born.” The term in the medicine is late term abortion, a abortion that occurs after 16 -18 weeks gestation. They are rare, only 1.3 percent of abortions happen after 21 weeks and most of these happen by 24 weeks. A normal pregnancy is 39 – 40 weeks. The vast majority of late term abortions occur because of severe birth defects, ranging from Downs Syndrome to anomalies incompatible with life, or, though not as often, the health of the mother.

An abortion is surgery and very precise. There is no ripping and tearing of tissues. Dr. Jennifer Gunter is an obstetrician/gynecologist who is trained to perform late term abortions and she was outraged at Trump. This is what she said:

The third and final presidential debate focused very quickly on abortion. Clinton defended choice, and Trump ― not one to be bothered with facts ― countered with this doozy of a line:

I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying… in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s okay, and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me. Because based on what she’s saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.

First of all, we don’t “rip” anything in OB/GYN. In surgery, we use sharp dissection and blunt dissection, but we don’t rip. Some women do tear during a vaginal delivery, but that’s not a doctor ripping the baby out. Even with a forceps delivery, I wouldn’t call it ripping. We also don’t rip tissues during c-sections.

Perhaps we can forgive Donald Trump for not knowing this as it is hard to believe that a man who bragged that he doesn’t change diapers and said he wouldn’t have had a baby if his wife had wanted him to actually physically participate in its care would have attended the birth of his own children. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart as there is, after all, lots of blood coming out the “wherever.”

Trump’s statement, as incorrect as it may be, supports the fallacy of the due-date abortion. It is a common anti-choice narrative that women come in at 39 weeks and have some kind of abortion for fun or out of boredom and that we doctors are only to happy to comply. I’m sure some people think there are Groupons. The more graphic the description of the procedure the better, as it helps to distract from the facts. [..]

Regardless, terminations for birth defects isn’t ripping “the baby out of the womb in the ninth month.” At 38 or 39 weeks, it’s always an induction and is simply called a delivery. [..]

There are no ninth month abortions. Really. A ninth month abortion is a unicorn and so it’s ridiculous to even discuss it. Terminations after 24 weeks are for severe fetal anomalies.

If it’s a unicorn, why not legislate it? Introducing a gestational age limit is introducing the thin edge of the wedge. Once you say abortion is illegal at say 37 weeks then you have agreed the subject is up for negotiation and more legislation.

If someone were truly interested in reducing abortion, they wouldn’t start with the 1.3 percent. More reductions can be made in the first trimester where most terminations are due to unplanned pregnancies. These abortions could be reduced dramatically with access to free and accessible long-acting reversible contraception. To dismiss these abortions and focus on the later procedures means it is not about reducing abortion at all, so it can only be about punishment and control.

Dr. Gunter goes on, in greater detail in another article, to describe the procedures. Warning, this is graphic and not for the squeamish but then neither is real life.

The host of “Full Frontal” Samantha Bee destroys Trump over this non-existent procedure.

Women cannot afford to have their right to the health care they need further eroded based on fallacies and myths.

We are nasty women, here us roar. Vote November 8.