Heidi Overton on June 14, 2022
The Left goes on and on about “Follow the Science” except when it comes to the abortion debate. Medical treatments and technology have drastically changed and improved since 1973.
Women can now see a baby inside their womb, watch it move and breathe, take home a picture and share it with friends on social media. The power of technology and improvements in medical care have changed the abortion debate towards pro-life arguments which is why the Left doesn’t use the “Follow the science” mantra with abortion.
New ultrasound technology now allows doctors and parents to see a baby’s development in incredible detail — one medical review article states this encourages maternal-fetal bonding. Improved treatments for extremely pre-term infants have improved survival with a 2022 academic study finding that 78% of infants born at 22-28 gestational weeks survive to go home with their parents.
Doctors can now perform intrauterine surgeries to treat conditions before the baby could live outside the womb, also known as “viability” — if the baby is wanted. That distinction is critical. Doctors change their language based on that one factor.
Take a standard 20-week ultrasound, for example. If a pregnancy is wanted, the doctor will tell the parents at their first ultrasound that the baby is healthy and developing normally. If a pregnancy is unwanted, the doctor in most U.S. states will tell the parents that the fetus is not yet viable so abortion is an option. Subjectively describing medical imaging findings based on whether the baby is wanted or unwanted is the opposite of science.
The U.S. government also displays this hypocrisy. The current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Women’s Health website describes the stages of pregnancy and has a section titled “your developing baby” for expectant mothers with significant milestones noted by week. The first bullet at four to five weeks reads, “Your baby’s brain and spinal cord have begun to form.”
Despite HHS’s recognition of the humanity of a developing baby in the womb, the Biden administration supports abortion policies that codify the “right to abortion” at any point in pregnancy — far exceeding the viability standard from Roe v. Wade. This policy is already in place in parts of America. Currently, in Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., abortion is not restricted by gestational age meaning that late-term abortions are allowed. It should be clear where the radicalism lies.
In practice, late-term abortion means that a baby that could survive outside the womb could be killed in the womb and delivered stillborn. Some abortion clinics outline the steps to complete these procedures, including injecting a drug to stop the baby’s heart to avoid violating the federal ban on partial-birth abortions. This is indistinguishable from infanticide and blatantly ignores the science of neonatology.
The U.S. is an extreme outlier on abortion policies compared to the rest of the world. We are one of only six countries in the world that permit elective abortions throughout all nine months — in the company of China and North Korea. Our current laws are more radical than 94% of Europe. In fact, more than 75% of European nations limit abortion at 12 weeks gestation in most cases. If the Mississippi 15-week law stands after the Dobbs decision, the state will still permit abortions beyond current limits in France, Germany, Italy, and Greece.
The majority of Americans do not support the radical policies of American liberals. Just one in five Americans think abortion should be legal in all cases and only 5% support fully unrestricted access to abortion. Almost two-thirds think the abortion issue should be decided by voters and their elected representatives. According to a Scott Rasmussen National Survey, nearly three-fourths of Americans recognize that two lives are at stake in the abortion conversation. And by a 2-1 margin, voters prefer a candidate who would restrict abortion to the first trimester than one who would allow it up until the time of birth.
If the leaked decision in the Dobbs case stands, voters and their elected state representatives will again decide when to protect a baby’s life during pregnancy. Americans should reject abortion radicalism and require policies informed by 21st century science and medicine. Then, indeed, we would all be “Following the Science!”
Heidi Overton, M.D., Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for a Healthy America at the America First Policy Institute. She is completing her medical training in Preventive Medicine and has a Ph.D. in Clinical Investigation from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
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