Like many of you, many of us tuned into the American presidential debate last Wednesday night and watched in horror as presidential nominee Donald Trump pledged that if he were elected, he would manipulate the Supreme Court by appointing pro-life judges to overturn the country’s abortion legislation, Roe Vs. Wade.
But equally disturbing were his graphic and inaccurate comments about the availability and process of late-term abortions revealed a frightening lack of subject knowledge. While we were horrified, we weren’t terribly surprised – Trump was neither first and nor the last politician to attempt to win votes with a frenzied and frankly dangerous misrepresentation of the realities of abortion.
Speaking to abortion with ignorance and anti-choice rhetoric IS damaging. Trump’s misinformation and propaganda plays into and re-enforces the stigma surrounding abortion, created and perpetuated by the vocal, anti-choice community. Donald Trump said a number of factually incorrect things about abortion, specifically late term abortion, to a global audience. We shudder to think of how many people left the debate filled with misinformation and misunderstanding. And we worry about the negative impact that will have on the lives of women and their communities across the world.
As abortion providers, we believe it is important to call out this blatant disregard for truth. The health of women the world over depends on it.
Most abortions in North America are performed within the first 12 weeks. In the U.S., late term abortions (21 weeks+) account for less than 2% of all abortions. Abortions in the third trimester (28 weeks) are extremely rare. Decided on a case by case basis, they often involve wanted pregnancies with a severe fetal anomaly or put the mother at risk. Late-term abortions are extremely expensive and not easily accessed; only four doctors and three clinics in the U.S perform them.
In Canada, while there is no legislated limit for abortion services, late-term abortions are also rare. It’s important to note that unlegislated does not mean unregulated. Community-based clinics – where they exist – will perform uncomplicated abortions up to approximately 16 weeks; hospitals may perform them up to 20 weeks. There is no provider in Canada that currently provides abortions past 24 weeks gestation.
We don’t all have to agree on the politics of abortion, and we think that is okay. But we don’t think it’s okay for anyone to push an anti-choice agenda using factually inaccurate information. We don’t think it’s okay for people to use their personal beliefs to limit the autonomy and choices of others about their own bodies. We don’t think it‘s okay for pregnancy crisis centres to not identify their anti-choice bias when counselling women seeking an abortion, and we don’t think it’s okay for them to exploit a vulnerable moment to manipulate pregnant people with judgmental, anti-choice messages and medically inaccurate misinformation. We don’t think it’s okay for anti-choice protestors to use tactics, such as graphic fictional images, that intimidate and stigmatize people visiting hospitals and clinics.
Our commitment to choice is not up for debate. We are committed to sharing accurate information about what abortion is and what it is not. We believe people need access to the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare – which includes accessible, free birth control and abortion services. We know that when countries limit abortion access with barriers to choice, they do not limit the number of abortions. Instead, they increase the number of illegal, unsafe abortions and the number of women who will be hurt and die from what should be a safe, legal healthcare procedure.
We encourage you to read and share accurate information about abortion across your social networks:
National Abortion Federation: https://prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/about-abortion/abortion-facts/
After Tiller (documentary about a late-term abortion clinic following the assassination of Dr. George Tiller): Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xf3rETOO62s