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While access to abortion is increasingly restricted in many states, options for women needing an abortion after 20 weeks have narrowed dramatically. The restrictions on later abortion are part of a broad attack on women's fundamental right to abortion.

Written by Susan Yanow for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

 Cross-posted with permission from the ANSIRH blog.

While access to abortion is increasingly restricted in many states, options for women needing an abortion after 20 weeks have narrowed dramatically.

In April 2010, Nebraska became the first state in the country to pass a restriction on abortion after 20 weeks, based on an unscientific claim that fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks gestation. The Nebraska law banned abortions after 20 weeks for any reason except if the pregnant woman's life is in danger.

Prior to the passage of this law in Nebraska, there were 21 states (plus the District of Columbia) where abortion was available after 20 weeks. Although in most of these states these services were dependent on one site and one physician, nonetheless the services existed. Since April 2010, legislation limiting abortions to 20 weeks has been signed into law in Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. Bills making access to later abortion more difficult were passed in Missouri and Ohio.

Arizona's lawmakers have gone even further. Although the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion through the second trimester, generally understood as 24-26 weeks, Arizona has redefined biology and the right to abortion and banned abortion after 18 weeks LMP (from the last menstrual period). The trimester construction of Roe is becoming irrelevant in many states.

And perhaps it is time to move beyond the trimester construction established in Roe -- but not for the reasons put forth by those opposed to abortion under all circumstances. We must expand our advocacy to include women who seek abortions later in pregnancy.

Studies show that many women who present at clinics after 20 weeks wanted an earlier abortion, but faced financial hurdles and legal barriers -- barriers which have increased as states pass new waiting periods, facility regulations, and other laws that restrict access to care. Other women face a diagnosis of fetal anomaly later in pregnancy. For still other women, circumstances shift and a wanted pregnancy becomes untenable when a woman's partner leaves, her young child develops a serious illness and needs her full attention, or someone in the family loses his/her job and/or health insurance.

These life situations do not fall neatly into a trimester construction. All of these women need to be able to make decisions about their futures, their lives, and their health.

The restrictions on later abortion are part of a broad attack on women's fundamental right to abortion. We must come together to find new strategies to protect existing services, help women who need later abortion care to get to those states where the services are still provided, build understanding and compassion for every woman's unique life situation, and stand up for the right of every woman to access the abortion she needs; as early as possible, and as late as necessary.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think an abortion ban after 20 weeks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thestructureguy

    is wise, maybe even a ban after 18 weeks.

    I don´t understand how people can defend abortion as late as 24--26 weeks, at this point the newborn will often be able to survive.

    I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Barack Obama

    by Mariken on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 03:32:43 PM PDT

    •  This diary is lacking any context for the "need" (6+ / 0-)

      for mid- to late-term abortions.

      And I agree with you that after viability, abortions should be circumscribed.  

      This is a subject for a much more probing diary.

      But I can think of at least one case where I firmly believe that abortion must be protected in the mid- to late-term of pregnancy.  It is when the fetus is not viable, or is dying or already dead. In some women nature's way of taking care of this -- miscarriage -- does not kick in due to physical or hormonal irregularities. Abortion may be necessary even if the woman's life is not in immanent danger.

      "A pride of lions" "A murder of crows" "A wunch of bankers"

      by Glinda on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 04:14:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Crider, Hastur, Mortifyd, Lujane, chimene

      most abortions that occur later than that are for medical reasons - either the health of the mother or the health of the fetus is severely compromised.

      This is a useful page
      http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/...

      About one percent of all abortions performed in the United States occur after 21 weeks.
      And many of those involved a wanted pregnancy but one that was found to have severe problems such as anencephaly or Trisomy 13.
    •  You are assuming a lot. (5+ / 0-)

      That the fetus and the mother are both healthy, and she just decides to abort. I assume it is not that simple, and that the decision should be made by those that have the facts in the case, the woman and her doctor.
      Removing the barriers to easy/affordable access to early abortion care would go a long way to curtail the situation you were referring to.

      Oh for crying out loud!

      by 4mygirls on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 04:57:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You have a great point about access to (0+ / 0-)

        early abortion care. However, assuming the mother and fetus are healthy what should be the cut off period if there even should be one.  Or are you stating the health shouldn't matter?  Should there be no time period and health of either or both shouldn't matter?

        Romney is George W. Bush without brains.

        by thestructureguy on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 05:44:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not to you and not to me. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          technomage, Lujane, Mark Wallace

          If the decision to carry or terminate a pregnancy is a private decision between the woman and her doctor -- with others (parents, spouse, significant other, siblings, best friends) involved ONLY as those two primary participants decide -- then it doesn't matter whether it's week one or week 39.   The discussion and the decision is theirs and theirs alone.  

          The government should keep its hands out of our sex lives and personal decisions about our bodies.

          Period.

          "There isn't a way things should be. There's just what happens, and what we do." — Terry Pratchett (A Hat Full of Sky)

          by stormicats on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 06:11:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  No limits. If it's necessary, it's necessary. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          technomage, Lujane, chimene

          Either you trust women, or you think they are stupid Barbie dolls who must be totally controlled "for their own good".

          If you trust women, you HAVE to trust them to make their own decisions for their own reasons - whether you agree with those decisions or not.

          If it's
          Not your body,
          Then it's
          Not your choice
          And it's
          None of your damn business!

          by TheOtherMaven on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 06:11:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I think this is headed to the Supreme Court (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane

    I just hope that when it's heard, we have another Justice on our side. Nothing is worse than a nanny red state.

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 04:54:10 PM PDT

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