Slate has a short piece on women who go into labor without even realizing they were pregnant to begin with:
For a woman who doesn’t think she could be pregnant, many of the classic
signs can be explained away. Fetal movement? It could be gas or
indigestion. Morning sickness? A stomach virus. Weight gain? Bad diet
and lack of exercise. Obese women may not gain noticeable amounts of
weight during pregnancy.
Slate points out some problems with women not realizing they’re pregnant:
[F]ailing to detect a pregnancy presents risks to the health of both
the mother and the child. For one, it means missing out on important prenatal
testing, monitoring, and vaccinations. It also means the mother doesn’t
know to avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, or doing drugs during the
What implications does this have in terms of abortion?
Proportionally, few abortions are late term abortions. According to the CDC, in 2009, 98.7% of abortions were performed before 21 weeks gestation, with 91.7% of abortions before 13 weeks. Of course, even with the CDC’s relatively low estimate of 784,507 abortions for that year, that means 65,114 abortions were performed at 13 weeks gestation or later, with 10,198 of them at 21 weeks or later.
At 13 weeks gestation, the fetus looks something like this:
|Image from BabyCenter.com|
Why does this happen? People often talk about wanted pregnancies in
which something goes wrong, or about conditions that can threaten the
life of the mother late in pregnancy. Those are both factors, to be
sure, but they aren’t the only ones. Live Science summarizes a 2011 study
which found that women were more likely to have second-trimester abortions if
they lived under the poverty line, had less education, were black or
Hispanic, or were under the age of 19. Women obtaining second-trimester
abortions were more likely to have been physically abused or raped, or
to have gone through other disruptive life events like job loss.
These factors are all correlations, not causations. Several of these factors could themselves increase the odds that a woman doesn’t realize she’s pregnant. The study found that “the majority of patients who had second-trimester abortions indicated they would have preferred to have them earlier.”
From a pro-life perspective, how much does gestational age matter, and in what
ways? As pro-lifers, we acknowledge that whether we’re talking about a zygote,
embryo, 8-week fetus, or 21-week fetus, we are talking about a human being. Abortions at any stage kill human beings. Does that mean all abortions are equal? Or are some worse than others? Are late-term abortions
morally worse than early-term ones? If so, by how much? Is one abortion at
21-weeks gestation as bad as two abortions at 6-weeks?
I ask because the two might be related. The 2011 study suggests second
trimester abortions could be decreased by increasing access to first trimester
abortions. The idea is that many women would have preferred first trimester
abortions but were unable to set up an abortion within their first trimester.
This could be because they had trouble getting together the funds for an
abortion, or finding the time to get to the nearest abortion clinic, which might
still be hours away. The timing could be particularly tricky if the local laws
require waiting periods, counseling sessions, and so forth, meaning multiple
separate days out of a daily schedule. If these measures decrease the overall
number of abortions, but increase the number of later term abortions, how do
you feel about them? What ways do you think would be best to decrease the number of late term abortions while also decreasing the overall number of abortions?