Commentary Magazine

Later-Term Abortion and Science Denial

On Wednesday, the White House responded to the House of Representatives passage of a bill that banned abortions after 20 weeks as another example of conservatives waging a war on women. According to White House spokesman Josh Earnest, the bill was “disgraceful” and “continues to add harsh burdens to the victims of sexual assault, rape and incest.” Democrats vowed that it would never get to the floor of the Senate. If this seems familiar, it’s because we’ve heard this from the pro-choice movement and other liberals every time this issue has been raised in the past. But what was missing from the discussion and the harsh attacks on supporters of the measure as troglodyte oppressors of women was any mention of the feature that appeared on the front page of the New York Times last Thursday highlighting a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine about the viability of premature babies delivered after the 20 week period. The study showed that given care, they had a chance to survive outside the womb. But instead of taking into account medical advances that have transformed late term procedures from just a run-of-the-mill abortion into something that may be indistinguishable from infanticide, all we’re getting from liberals is the same tired rhetoric about “choice.”

Critics are right about the House bill never becoming law. A Democratic Party that views abortion on demand as a litmus test will never permit its Senate caucus to allow it to obtain the 60 votes it needs to be considered for a vote. Indeed, some in the House are hoping that it will help generate a legal case that could give the Supreme Court a chance to rule on the issue.

But whether it succeeds or not, what is most remarkable about the debate about late term abortion is the way the left continues to treat a procedure that is morally indefensible as sacrosanct. As I wrote last week, the New England Journal study has created a tipping point in terms of the nature of this debate. Sonograms and the advances in prenatal care made over the last 40 years have transformed our understanding of abortion since the Supreme Court legalized it in 1973 with the Roe v. Wade case. Whatever one might think about abortions early in a pregnancy — and there appears to be a clear consensus in the nation behind their legality — late term procedures are a very different thing. If, as the New England Journal study proves, infants have a fighting or good chance of survival during the period covered by the House ban, it is no longer possible to defend these procedures as merely a matter of choice.

Moreover, since the House bill has exceptions dealing with rape, incest and the rare cases where the life of the mother is at stake, the ground on which opponents of the ban must stand is getting narrow and uncomfortable.

Yet nothing we have learned about the procedure appears to be enough to influence the left to change its point of view. They are convinced that any restrictions on abortion, no matter how reasonable or how popular with a public, must be resisted at all costs. This has led them into a position that I have called a new form of denial of science. But unlike their lockstep conformity on global warming theories, the facts about infants being able to live on their own after 20 weeks doesn’t seem to interest them. Unsurprisingly, the New York Times article on the House vote didn’t even reference their own front page article from last week even though that piece acknowledged that the study might well impact the debate about abortion.

Instead of mulling whether the late term abortion ban (passed on the second anniversary of the sentencing of late term abortion butcher Kermit Gosnell for slaughtering infants born alive after such procedures) is politically wise for Republicans or a godsend to Democrats eager to replay their 2012 “war on women” attacks on their foes, we should be discussing the real life implications of medical innovations on public policy. The real issue isn’t the legality of abortion as a whole — which isn’t in question — but the lives of infants who could survive but are now still able to be legally sentenced to a grisly death because of the fears of a political faction that is still in denial about a scientific consensus and medical facts.

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