Late-term abortion entails pregnancy termination by induced abortion during a late gestation stage. Largely, abortion has been a controversial debate, with different individuals trying to prove their points on that topic. Abortion takes place at different stages of gestation, with the practice being more prevalent in the first trimester than in the others. Despite 1.3%of abortions occurring after the 21st week of pregnancy and less than 1% happening after the 24th week, the latter receives more attention and concern than any other stage within the United States. The low percentage of late termination of abortion indicates how the practice is rare. However, “late,” in this case, is not well defined within society despite many individuals using the term to indicate beyond the first 20 weeks after fertilization. On the other hand, medical practitioners and publications use distinct gestation age thresholds. Whereas some individuals oppose the later termination of pregnancy, the practice can benefit society.
Late termination of pregnancy tends to be more controversial than abortion from different perspectives, including politics. Many European countries permitted abortion in the later stages of pregnancies under specific situations. These circumstances vary from one country to another and among women, including health, accessibility, and financial issues. For instance, statistics reports about abortion in Australia indicate that 92% of abortions were conducted before 14 weeks, 6% were between 14 and 20 weeks, and about 2% were conducted later (Cations et al., 2020). Individuals who experienced late termination of pregnancy – beyond 20 weeks – cited actual or probable fetal abnormalities.
Other countries, such as England, Canada, Wales, and Scotland, to mention a few, have reported more or less similar statistics over the past few years. The figures indicate about 1% of individuals performing the practice do it beyond the first 20 weeks. The United States is no exception. However, this practice must meet specific conditions, like in Norway, where an individual must apply for a special medical assessment from the “Abortion Board,” which determines whether to abort or not (KFF, 2019). It indicates that when an individual follows legal criteria, including meeting all the needs, she can undertake the practice at different stages of gestation, including late termination of abortion.
A person can have an abortion later in pregnancy due to numerous reasons. For instance, there are non-medical reasons. Numerous agencies and organizations, such as the University of California San Francisco, have researched why a woman would seek an abortion later in her pregnancy. AlmostAlmost half the sample size, most women who obtained an abortion beyond 20 years indicated they did not suspect being pregnant until later in pregnancy. Other women also stated a lack of information about the relevant institutions to access an abortion, inability to pay the bills, including the entire procedure, transportation difficulties, and lack of insurance coverage to cater to some costs (Cohen et al., 2021).
Such statistics are unsurprising due to the cost-prohibitive nature of the entire process, especially with the cost of an abortion at 20 weeks being more than $2000, excluding costs for transport and lost wages. It is worse for adults, as reports indicate that 40% of these individuals do not save enough to cater to emergency expenses, prompting a delay in raising the necessary funds to pay for the bills. Furthermore, only 16% of all the abortion-providing facilities within the United States provide the service at 24 weeks or beyond, while at 20 weeks, 34 percent (Cohen et al., 2021). It depicts that an individual will have to travel a significant distance to find an appropriate facility with available, trained personnel. It shows how sometimes circumstances can delay an abortion prompting late termination of pregnancy.
The other reason individuals can seek late termination of pregnancy is fetal anomalies. Medical reasons can trigger a person to seek an abortion later in pregnancy (Sutton et al., 2022). The advanced technologies in the medical system have made it possible for early genetic fetal anomalies detection during pregnancy, including chronic villus sampling diagnosing down syndrome at ten weeks gestation. It is always a different case, especially structural feat anomalies, due to a fetal anatomy scan conducted later in pregnancy, at 20 weeks. The part of routine scan detects such fetal anomalies late in pregnancy that failed to be discovered on a previous occasion. Most of them are lethal fetal anomalies, such as Cantrell’s limb body wall complex and pentalogy. In most cases, these lethal fetal anomalies render the fetus susceptible to death before or almost immediately after birth. A study that Washington University Hospital conducted indicates that the fetus’s nonviability status usually leaves a parent with no choice other than to terminate the pregnancy, regardless of gestation age. Most individuals agree on pregnancy termination as the management option in such circumstances, especially soon after diagnosing lethal fetal anomalies.
The other reason is the health risk to the pregnant person. Life-threatening conditions and circumstances do not select the appropriate time to occur. Instead, they happen at any time to anybody, regardless of their condition. Sometimes, pregnant individuals become more susceptible to such conditions. Such health situations include newly diagnosed cancer that needs urgent treatment, preeclampsia, and intrauterine infection. The latter is always in conjunction with amniotic sac premature rupture. These are life-threatening conditions that a pregnant individual can undergo, and the only option that the individual has is to terminate the pregnancy (Sutton et al., 2022). When any of these conditions occur before the fetus is not viable, the person may pursue an abortion to preserve her health and life. On the other hand, if the fetus is viable and any such conditions arise, the pregnant individual can also consider late termination of pregnancy under Roe v. Wade, which protects her. However, in most cases, healthcare practitioners will always try and make every effort to save the life of a pregnant person and the fetus.
On the other side of the debate concerning late termination of pregnancy, individuals cite the practice’s adverse effects on society. They base on the fetus’s viability, specifically the right to live. The opponent of abortion in the later stages of pregnancy state the fetus has a right to live like other humans per universal human rights, and no one should choose what is best at the expense of the innocent fetus. The other reason that the individuals cite is laws and policies enacted to prevent late termination of pregnancy are excellent indications for the practice being an indication for the practice being inhumane and unethical in all aspects of life (Dahl et al., 2021).
Furthermore, some have cited that beyond 20 weeks, the fetus starts feeling pain, and some states have enacted laws relying on the information. Individuals exposing a fetus to abortion at such a stage or beyond is like intentionally inflicting pain on it. They also cite the health effects on the pregnant person, including mental and physical problems (Cohen, 2021). However, some of these details are misinformation in society. For instance, no medical evidence indicates the fetus feels pain due to immature brain development and neural networks. Scientific data indicate such conditions can only be possible when the fetus is over 29 weeks. Research has also indicated less risk of physical and psychological morbidity and mortality among individuals; it does not increase depression, anxiety, or stress conditions in short- or long-term risks. Instead, sexual assault, violence among sexual partners, and individuals with previous mental problems could experience negative outcomes after abortion.
In conclusion, the late termination of pregnancy has received disproportionate attention in our society’s news, legal and political realm regarding laws and policy-making activities. Despite abortions at or beyond 20 weeks being uncommon, in most cases, society permits them under specific circumstances. Roe v. Wade revolutionized the topic of abortion, and the United States, specifically regarding the viability and abortion regulation. “Viability” in this context does not mean a set date in pregnancy but rather other factors ranging from medical intervention availability to gestation age and fetal weight. The case also led to many states passing laws that allowed and restricted access to abortion, especially in the latter stages of pregnancy. Misinformation has done more harm regarding the late termination of pregnancy. Individuals should apply legitimate and scientific information when making crucial decisions in such cases of abortion in later stages because it can be helpful to the pregnant person and society in general.
Cations, M., Ripper, M., and Dwayer, J. (2020). Majority support for access to abortion care, including later in abortion in South Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. Vol. 44(5), 349-352.
Cohen, M., Kapp, N., and Edelman, A. (2021). Abortion care beyond 13 weeks’ gestation: a global perspective. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology. Vol. 64(3), 460-474.
Dahl, S., Vaksdal, R., and Barra, M. (2021). Abortion and multifetal pregnancy reduction; An ethical comparison. Etikk I Praksis-Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics. Pg. 51-73.
KFF. (2019). Abortions later in pregnancy. Retrieved from https://ww.kff.org/womens-health-policy/fact-sheet/abortion-later-in-pregnancy/
Miller, E. (2021). Maintaining exceptionality: Interrogating gestational limits for abortion. Social and Legal Studies.
Sutton, R., Murphy, A., and Petterson, A. (2022). The politics of abortion, pregnancy, and motherhood. The Cambridge Handbook of political psychology. Pg. 272.