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A Viable Political Strategy?

Democrats embrace late-term abortion at their peril.

Aug 5, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 44 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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If Landrieu decides to vote against the bill, she will have a very hard time arguing that abortions performed later than 20 weeks after conception are not late-term. At that point in pregnancy, a baby is physically developed enough to feel pain, and some can survive outside the womb.

“I’m here because it’s easy for me to imagine these babies at 20 to 24 weeks post-fertilization age, because they are my patients in the [neonatal intensive care unit],” Dr. Colleen Malloy of Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine testified before Congress in 2012. “You can see the detail in the face,” she said, showing a picture of an ultrasound. “You can see the movements—the 4D ultrasound images that we have now are real time images of babies kicking, moving, sucking their thumb—doing all the things babies do.”

Contrary to Landrieu’s assertion, the partial-birth abortion ban didn’t actually ban abortions based on the gestational age of the baby, but rather its location. It banned a particular procedure used in some second- and third-trimester abortions in which the baby is first delivered breech past the navel before its skull is crushed by the abortionist. The late New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called it “too close to infanticide.” The bill passed in 2003 with the votes of 17 Democratic senators, including Joe Biden and Harry Reid, and was signed by President Bush. But the law did not prohibit other late-term abortion procedures, such as dismemberment and lethal injection.

In light of the trial of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell, pro-lifers and even some pro-choice writers like Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson and the Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker have argued that there isn’t really a significant difference between killing a 23-week-old baby outside the womb, an act that constitutes murder under the law, and killing her inside the womb for any reason, which is perfectly legal in most states.

And some of the most prominent defenders of abortion rights, including Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, have been unable to explain why the acts committed by Dr. Gosnell constituted murder but killing the same babies moments before birth must remain legal. “This is sacred ground,” Pelosi said, dodging the question a third and final time at a press conference in June.

When asked about the difference between infanticide and late-term abortion, Richards pointed to cases in which the baby is suffering from severe disabilities, effectively making an argument for fetal euthanasia. But when asked about late-term abortions on healthy babies, she walked away without even trying to make an argument.

There are likely thousands, if not tens of thousands, of elective late-term abortions performed every year in the United States. “Diana Greene Foster, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology [at] the University of California, San Francisco, co-authored a forthcoming paper looking at more than 200 women who had abortions after 20 weeks for nonmedical reasons,” writes Michelle Goldberg in the Daily Beast. “According to Foster, two-thirds of them were delayed while they tried to raise money to pay for a termination. Twelve percent were teenagers, some of whom went months without realizing they were pregnant.”

Foster examined what happened to women who had wanted a late-term abortion but missed their clinic’s self-imposed deadline. “About 5 percent of the women, after they have had the baby, still wish they hadn’t. And the rest of them adjust,” Foster told the New York Times.

The abortion issue was not a winning issue for Republicans in 2012 because Democrats, the press, and Republican gaffes focused attention on abortion in the case of rape, which Americans overwhelmingly think should be legal. But when the debate was focused on taxpayer-funding of abortion under Obamacare, as it was in 2010, or partial-birth abortion, as it was in 2004, it was a winning issue for the pro-life side.

“Even I have trouble explaining to my family that we are not about killing babies,” Democratic operative Donna Brazile told the New York Times after the 2004 election. Abortion was an issue that “put us into the extreme and not the mainstream.”

In every election from 1996 to 2012, Gallup found that the pro-life side has had a two-point advantage over the pro-choice side among voters who say “they would only vote for candidates who share their views on abortion.” The exception is 2004, the year after the partial-birth abortion ban became law, when the pro-life side had a seven-point advantage. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that 2004 was the only time in the past two decades when a Republican presidential candidate won the popular vote.

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