Gestational limits are unwise

Some nine months after our in-depth examination of the issue of gestational limits to abortion, we continue to receive correspondence on the issue. We don’t want to beat a dead horse because our position is well-known: aside from the semantic and philosophical arguments for or against gestational or other time limits on abortion, The Interim does not think this flawed incremental approach works. That is, by the standard of our critics – pragmatism – gestational limits fail.

We have no illusion that anyone will be persuaded by moral arguments that gestational limits are wrong because they sacrifice babies after some arbitrary point of pregnancy, or philosophical arguments about negative versus positive liberty and whether abortion is legal or merely tolerated in the absence of a law prohibiting it. There is no need to rehearse these arguments again. We have been having this debate for decades. We regret we have not been persuasive but understand that sincere pro-lifers hold different views on this issue.

Our focus has instead turned to facts in hope that it will persuade otherwise well-meaning pro-lifers who (in our view) erroneously believe gestational limits will be an effective or meaningful restriction on abortion. In jurisdictions that ban abortion after some arbitrary point – New York state, the United Kingdom, France, to name just three examples – the number of abortions after the supposedly proscribed time limit has increased. In other words, despite abortion being banned at 20 weeks (as in New York) or 24 weeks (as in England), the number of late-term abortions after that point has increased in recent years in these states/countries. Why would that be? Because all time-limit restrictions include exceptions such as the health of the mother and cases of fetal defects and most late-term abortions are done for precisely these reasons.

Early abortions are often used as a form of birth control and too many women casually have abortionists kill their children. But late-term abortions are often done for “health” reasons which would certainly remain legal. It is also possible that some abortionists would lie about the reason for an abortion to eliminate the child under the provisions allowed under the law. While it is rhetorical excess to say that a late-term ban would not save any babies, over time, experience tells us, the number of late-term abortions increase as diagnostic technology improves and more women have babies later in life.

We applaud efforts to increase awareness about the child in the womb and would never condemn the pro-life efforts of our friends and allies. But we firmly believe it is a mistake to pursue a gestational limit to restrict abortion. We encourage effective incremental restrictions such as defunding abortion and informed consent to chip away at the abortion license until the public and our elected officials are ready to enact protection for all innocent human life from the time of conception/fertilization.

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