Multiple “fact checks” by media outlets have concluded that late-term abortions and abortions until birth either do not exist or only occur in circumstances where there is a fatal or “devastating” fetal diagnosis.

These claims are false.

Myth #1: Late-term Abortions Don’t Happen

Abortions late in pregnancy are not reported in many states and the number of such abortions is not fully known. What is known comes from public statements made by abortionists—including how many they have done and for what reasons.

Only a handful of abortionists in the United States perform late abortions. One of them, Warren Hern of Colorado, was recently profiled in The Atlantic (May 2023):

He specializes in abortions late in pregnancy—the rarest, and most controversial, form of abortion. This means that Hern ends the pregnancies of women who are 22, 25, even 30 weeks along.

In The Atlantic interview, it is noted that, “Hern is reluctant to acknowledge any limit, any red line. He takes the woman’s-choice argument to its logical conclusion…”

In an August interview with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, NBC’s Dasha Burns challenged the governor’s assertion that Democrats want to legalize abortion up to birth. The following is a transcript of their exchange:

DeSantis: I would not allow what a lot of the left wants to do, which is to override pro-life protections throughout the country all the way up really until the moment of birth in some instances, which I think is infanticide.

Burns: Well, actually, I gotta push back on that because that’s a misrepresentation of what’s happening. I mean 1.3 percent of abortions happen at 21 weeks or higher, and there’s no evidence of Democrats pushing for abortions up until—

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DeSantis: Their view is . . . that all the way up into that, that there should not be any legal protections.

One of the things Burns acknowledged was that, at a minimum, we know 1.3 percent of the abortions that take place in the United States are performed on preborn babies who are 21 weeks old or older.

John McCormack of National Review explains:

Burns pointed to the fact that 1.3 percent of abortions happen at 21 weeks or later, but 1.3 percent of 930,000 total abortions still equals 12,000 unique human beings killed each year at 21 weeks or later, when babies are capable of feeling pain and sometimes capable of surviving outside of the womb. There are fewer than 12,000 total gun homicides in the United States each year. Burns, in an attempt to minimize the horror of late-term abortion, actually ended up agreeing that late-term abortions do in fact happen in the United States.

Myth #2. Late-Term Abortions Are Only Performed in Cases Where There is a Fatal Fetal Diagnosis

Warren Hern also admitted to doing sex-selection abortions. He admits that at least half or more of the women who have abortions in his facility are not there because of a devastating prenatal diagnosis — as is often claimed by pro-abortion advocates.

According to The Atlantic, “Hern, though, believes that the viability of a fetus is determined not by gestational age but by a woman’s willingness to carry it.”

Years ago, in 1993, the AMNews, the house organ of the American Medical Association, reported about two additional late-term abortionists:

Dr. Haskell said he performs abortions “up until about 25 weeks” gestation most of them elective. Dr. McMahon does abortions through all 40 weeks of pregnancy, but said he won’t do an elective procedure after 26 weeks. About 80% of those he does after 21 weeks are nonelective, he said.

However, after doing an interview with the late Dr. James McMahon, Karen Tumulty wrote in the Los Angeles Times Magazine (January 7, 1990):

If there is any other single factor that inflates the number of late abortions, it is youth. Often, teenagers do not recognize the first signs of pregnancy. Just as frequently, they put off telling anyone as long as they can.

Myth #3: Late-Term Abortions Are Only Performed in Cases Where the Mother’s Life is in Danger

The Atlantic describes the prepping process for the procedure Warren Hern uses – which can take 3 or 4 days to implement:

Hern stopped performing first-trimester abortions a few years ago; he saw too much need for later abortions, and his clinic couldn’t do it all. The procedure he uses takes three or four days and goes like this: After performing an ultrasound, he will use a thin needle to inject a medicine called digoxin through the patient’s abdomen to stop the fetus’s heart. This is called “inducing fetal demise.” Then Hern will insert one or more laminarias—a sterile, brownish rod of seaweed—into the patient’s cervix to start the dilation process.

When the cervix is sufficiently dilated after another day or two of adding and removing laminarias, Hern will drain the amniotic fluid, give the patient misoprostol, and remove the fetus. Sometimes, the fetus will be whole, intact. Other times, Hern must remove it in parts. If the patient asks, a nurse will wrap the fetus in a blanket to hold, or present a set of handprints or footprints for the patient to take home.

But, in a true life-threatening emergency, a pregnant woman cannot wait 3 or 4 days for life-saving medical treatment. An emergency caesarian section can be performed in less than 30 minutes but this fact doesn’t fit the pro-abortion narrative that the only time late-term abortions are performed is in the most extreme of circumstances or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Pro-abortion groups know abortions late in pregnancy take place, but they also know the public opposes abortions later in pregnancy. The full number of abortions that take place after 21 weeks are not published by abortion facilities and abortionists like Warren Hern are presented as outliers, But the fact remains that abortions late in pregnancy do occur, they are done for a variety of reasons, and they are often done on healthy babies of healthy mothers. Note: Laura Echevarria is the Director of Media Relations and a spokesperson for the National Right to Life Committee.

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