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the Body Politic
Vol. 7, No. 1 - January 1997, Page 2
Copyright © 1997 by the Body Politic Inc.
Editor's Desk

Response to George Will

Guest Editorial by Jane Clair – Board Member, the Body Politic Inc.

George Will's recent column linking the late-term abortion issue to the tragic Delaware case (where two teens, Amy and Brian, have been arrested for murdering their newborn baby) cries out for a counterpoint, since it contains factual errors as well as mistaken assumptions.
As has always been the case since the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy has been outlawed by almost every state, except to save a woman's life or health, or in cases of fetal defect incompatible with life. None of the exceptions applied in this case...
First of all, it is not true that this teenage couple could have requested and received an abortion moments before their baby was born: As has always been the case since the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy has been outlawed by almost every state, except to save a woman's life or health, or in cases of fetal defect incompatible with life. None of the exceptions applied in this case; no licensed medical provider would have agreed to perform this procedure because it would have been illegal. This is equally true for the case of the abandoned infant in the Long Island movie theater. I repeat (because the anti-choice propaganda machine is working overtime on this): Abortion is illegal in the third trimester in New York unless the woman's life or health is at stake.

The second factual mistake in the column is Mr. Will's gory and macabre description of a late-term abortion, often referred to in error as a "partial birth abortion." You can refer to the fact sheet on page 21 from the New York State American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to find that there is no such medical procedure. The other anecdotes in Mr. Will's column also have me concerned, but for other reasons: The woman arrested for attempted murder in Wisconsin because she got drunk during her eighth month of pregnancy and gave birth prematurely, is part of an alarming trend in the U.S. In many states, troubled pregnant women are being incarcerated instead of being counseled or provided with medical education and rehabilitation programs. Society is telling them: You don't matter, but your fetus does (at least until it's born).

Society is also telling women with unwanted pregnancies that any choice they make will be stigmatized: If a woman chooses an abortion she has to run the gauntlet of busybody protesters (and certain newspaper columnists) saying she is a murderer; in many states, she must also navigate a maze of laws designed specifically to limit her access to the procedure. If she must give birth and raise the child alone she is made to feel guilty because her child won't have a father. If she chooses adoption, society often quietly equates this with child abandonment.

Is it any wonder the two high-achieving Delaware teens, not allowed to make mistakes, simply refused to accept the reality of their pregnancy until it could be denied no longer? And that their solution was a horrific cover-up that took the life of their baby? They chose not to choose because they couldn't live with any of the choices.

With his vehement opposition to abortion, George Will should be urging universal access to contraception and sexuality education. However, in previous columns he has slammed medical providers like Planned Parenthood. One wonders how many more stories like Amy and Brian's we would have if Mr. Will were setting social policy for our country!


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