Abortion debate needs reasonable compromise
In February of this year, I wrote that It is time to revisit Roe v Wade. That column voiced disagreement over Virginia and New York’s abortion laws. Subsequent to that column, Alabama has passed a law that severely restricts abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. Georgia and Louisiana have passed laws that ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which is around six weeks.
In today’s political climate, everyone has a strong opinion on everything. Unfortunately, most of those opinions are formed with little of no understanding of the underlying issue. Let’s start by understanding the development of the embryo and the key developments during pregnancy.
Week 4: Tests can detect pregnancy as early as eight to 12 days post conception according to the National Institute for Health. The accuracy level for pregnancy blood test is around 99%.
Week 6: Heartbeat can be detected in most cases using an internal ultrasound.
Week 8: The baby transitions from a fetus to an embryo.
Week 12: Organs like arms, legs, hands and feet are formed. The baby can open and close its mouth and fists. Fingernails, toenails and ears are formed. Reproductive organs develop but gender is difficult to distinguish using current imaging techniques.
Week 16: The heartbeat can now be heard consistently using external ultrasound. Fingers and toes are well-defined. The baby can now suck his or her thumb, yawn and stretch. “Quad screen” testing is done at this time and will provide an indication of congenital birth defects like Down syndrome.
Week 20: The baby is developing muscles and is exercising them. The mother can feel the baby move.
Week 24: Baby responds to sounds by moving or increasing pulse. At this point in the pregnancy, a premature baby may survive with intensive care. This is when the fetus becomes “viable”, meaning that the baby had more than 50% chance of survival outside the mother’s womb.
Week 28: A premature baby will likely survive.
Week 32: Most internal systems are well developed, with the exception of lungs which may still be premature.
Week 36: The baby can blink, close the eyes, turn the head and respond to sounds, light and touch. The baby changes position to prepare for labor and delivery.
Let’s call a spade a spade: Virginia allows abortions in the fourth trimester, after the baby is born. That is infanticide, pure and simple. Alabama outlaws abortions during all phases of pregnancy, even during the fifth week of pregnancy and even in cases of rape and incest. Both laws are extreme. Federal law should allow abortion on demand up until ten weeks. Outside of traumatic situations like rape and incest, that is sufficient time to make a decision. In case of rape or incest, abortions should be banned once heartbeat can be reliably detected, which is around 16 weeks into the pregnancy. States should have the right to determine what makes sense between those two guardrails.
One final thought: It is not the government’s job to tell a woman who became pregnant due to rape or incest she cannot have an abortion. Likewise, the woman has a responsibility to make a decision before the fetus reaches a point where the baby has a heartbeat. Pregnancy can be reliably detected around the 6th week and a heartbeat can be reliably detected around the 16th week. 10 weeks is a reasonable amount of time to decide whether to terminate the pregnancy. I recognize that is not an ideal solution, but it is a reasonable compromise on a critical issue.