The 20-week abortion myth

BY GUEST OPINION | MAY 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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Much has been written about abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart opening a clinic in Council Bluffs. It’s an uproar at Council Bluffs City Council meetings and even caused the proposal of HF 657, a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks. Let’s ignore for a minute how ridiculous it is to write legislation to prevent someone from coming into your state or community to practice legal medicine; any such clinic is unlikely to open, and this issue is really a diversion.

I had the opportunity to work for Carhart in 2009-10. I’ve met over the course of my career tens of thousands of women who were seeking safe, legal abortion services, some of these women needed later abortions. What seems to be lost in this debate is the actual human equation. Have any of these legislators even asked why a woman would seek an abortion after 20 weeks? Have they thought to seek someone out to share their story? If they did, they would never support this bill.

Late abortion is a heart-wrenching decision that is never made lightly. In my practice, I saw women travel thousands of miles with just the clothes on their backs, crying, distraught and broken, and the only hope they had left was that someone might be there and be able to help them through this situation. Women who are facing severely deformed pregnancies, some which would be incompatible with life, children who had become pregnant as a result of incest or rape, women who were told lies by their physicians in order to deter them from abortion — the stories are myriad.

The forgotten element here is the women. Women need abortion; they need it to be safe, legal, and available. This bill’s sole aim is to roll back the tide on *Roe* and decrease access to abortion. The right-wing has been chipping away for decades now, and this is its newest mechanism. HF 657 is a myth that focuses on the 20th week of pregnancy, an arbitrary line, and would restrict abortions past this time.

Who are these legislators to decide the fate of women’s lives? Women will die, women’s lives will be destroyed, and forced pregnancy, which is tantamount to slavery, will result in unwanted births (which rarely end well).

For some reason, Republicans don’t want to fund Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, and various social programs that many of these women will need if forced to carry these pregnancies to term; in short, they only really care about these “babies” when they’re in utero. This isn’t about nurturing healthy kids; it’s about pandering to their base and aiming to score political points.

If you could only see what I’ve seen and heard the stories I’ve heard. Can any of you who support this bill consider walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? Do you think late-term abortion is an easy decision? Women don’t just wake up one morning and decide, at 28 weeks pregnant, that they want an abortion.

I implore the Iowa Senate to vote down this destructive measure. I implore the Council Bluffs City Council to get back to doing the work its members were elected to do instead of letting this continue to waste their time. Instead of focusing on the issues that could help put Americans back to work and to ease the struggle of trying to survive such harsh economic times, these legislators, nearly all of whom are elderly, white, and male, have decided that their lack of empathy should take legislative form.

Ryan Swanek is a resident of Council Bluffs. A version of this article also appeared at RHRealityCheck.org.

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