Healthcare

Democrats are not the party of infanticide

I have always thought of the Democrat Party as the party of equality, human rights and fairness. We are advocates for the disadvantaged, the neglected, the ignored. We see the complexities of Americans' lives and challenges. We believe in criminal justice reform and second chances, while Republicans fight to keep long mandatory-minimum sentences and implement proactive law enforcement measures.

Republicans see things differently from us, but a frightening transformation is under way. The GOP has branded the Democrats as the party of infanticide. Suddenly our economic ideas don't matter; our history of standing up for civil rights and protecting access to health care are distant images in the rearview mirror of the Republican Party machine.

We are tagged as the party of "fourth-trimester abortions," and that's wrong.

Seizing the opportunity to play to his base, President Trump said in his State of the Union address: "Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world." He wasn't done, though. "And then, we had the case of the governor of Virginia, where he basically stated he would execute a baby after birth."

The president's supporters awarded him bonus points when he called for federal anti-abortion legislation. But fact-checkers were scrambling.

This isn't the first time the president has gone too far with his remarks. During the 2016 campaign, he claimed that women should suffer "some form of punishment" for having an abortion, a position too radical even for the Susan B. Anthony List. This moment was a true window into the disingenuousness of his pro-life position.

But the disinformation campaign about "late-term abortion" - a term that obstetrician-gynecologists say is "medically inaccurate" and has "no clinical meaning" - is on another level.

More than 60 percent of Americans support the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that protects a woman's right to make her own health care decisions, in consultation with her doctor and in private. Only 13 percent support access to abortion after 21 weeks. This is largely based on conflicts over when "life" begins, making it of crucial importance that we have a standard defined by science and not by false rumors.  

It's important for the public to know that only 1.3 percent of abortions in the United States occur after 21 weeks, and fewer than 1 percent after 24 weeks. It's not a procedure that's performed except in extraordinary circumstances.

The Supreme Court revisited the question of abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. Because of that case, abortions can be permitted in the third trimester, but only for medical emergencies that threaten the life of the mother. The court defined "medical emergency" as: "...(t)hat condition, which, on the basis of the physician's good-faith clinical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant woman so as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death, or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

The uproar over late-term abortion rights was provoked by the statements, and then the actions, of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. His refusal to clarify his comments have left us to speculate about the horrors of the "new" law. The bill in question wouldn't have changed the number of weeks that a woman can have an abortion, only the number of doctors who need to sign off on the procedure.

In New York, lawmakers acted to update the law so that it would conform to Supreme Court rulings and ensure that women's rights are not abridged by state law.

These laws don't sound like they encourage infanticide. They deal with the process of delicate decisions in which a woman's right to face one of the most difficult decisions and conditions of her life is honored as a protected right.

I was personally lectured on-air by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee that [he] "thought Democrats believed in science. Biologically, it's not a part of a woman's body. If it was, it would have the exact same DNA of a woman, it would have the same blood type. It doesn't. It's a distinct human being from the moment of conception."

Huckabee's understanding of basic biology is clearly flawed, but, in the fast flow of a television interview, all I could get out was: "It's one that can't live on its own." If I had more time, a thoughtful discussion of the reasons a woman might have an abortion after 21 weeks would have ensued.  

Only one person, Kermit Gosnell, was convicted of murdering three infants born alive during abortion procedures. Tens of thousands of doctors can tell you why late-pregnancy abortions occur and why they can be a terrible but necessary choice.  

Abortion after 21 weeks is rare. And if our goal is to afford women their rights under the Constitution, and for abortion to be safe, legal and rare, then we must be more thoughtful and  knowledgeable about the subject. Doctors should be given the microphone to discuss this, not politicians, religious zealots or untrained citizens.

President Trump and Republicans must stop the lies.

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.

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