Restrictions on early abortions are driving more women to have them later
Christina Taylor already had two children when she became pregnant with her third. Everything went well in the beginning and she was looking forward to welcoming a new baby into the family.
Then, when she was 20 weeks pregnant, Taylor went for an ultrasound and a basic anatomy scan.
That was the worst news. The baby had no kidneys or bladder and there was no amniotic fluid. The baby would likely not survive the pregnancy or die shortly after birth.
“I had the option to wait and see when it’s over and then, you know, you’d have a stillbirth. But I knew I couldn’t do that,” Taylor said.
Fortunately, abortion is legal in Colorado, with no restrictions on pregnancy. Taylor proceeded with what is medically considered a late abortion.
Abortions later in pregnancy are rare, especially now that drugs to terminate early pregnancies are available.
They are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in much of the United States.
Many states have laws that require a waiting period before an abortion or ultrasound. If the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade’s 1973 law that legalized abortion, women in some parts of the country face even more hurdles and may have to travel to another state to have an abortion.
This means more women could have the procedure later than they would like.
“It’s not because people don’t want them sooner,” said Dr. Diane Horvath, a gynecologist in Baltimore, Maryland who has been performing abortions for 16 years. “That’s because barriers and new information mean they have to postpone it until later in the pregnancy.”
Almost 93% of legal abortions performed in the US in 2019, the latest available data, occurred within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy or in the first trimester, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just over 6% were performed at 14-20 weeks gestation, and even fewer, less than 1%, were performed at 21 weeks or later in the third trimester.
For some women, delays in discovering they are pregnant are the first hurdle.
“Everyone thinks you portray pregnancies the same way. You lose your period, you throw up, you take a test and in five weeks you know you’re pregnant. And that’s just not how life is for a lot of people,” said Erika Christensen, founder of PatientForward, a nonprofit organization that helps people access post-natal abortion.
Jenn Chalifoux, now 30, a law student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, became pregnant in 2010 at the age of 18 and was hospitalized in New York for an eating disorder.
She had missed her period, but that’s a common symptom for those dealing with a restrictive eating disorder. Also, she was on birth control.
When she took a pregnancy test and contacted Planned Parenthood, she was told that it was too late for a medical abortion and that she would need surgery.
After an initial appointment at a hospital to prepare for the procedure, another ultrasound showed she was further along than first thought. Overall, Chalifoux said it took about a month since she found out she was pregnant to be able to have an abortion just days after she turned 19.
As Chalifoux found, the cost of an abortion increases significantly over time, from a few hundred dollars to thousands in the second trimester and later to tens of thousands.
A young woman who was raped in 2020 said she only found out about her pregnancy months later than the cost of her abortion in the weeks it took her to find out she was late to in Houston, where they lived to claim benefits increased significantly.
She was in her third trimester when she boarded a plane alone to fly to New Mexico and terminate her pregnancy at 27 weeks gestation.
The woman, who the AP does not identify because she was a victim of sexual assault, has been supported by PatientForward, the abortion rights nonprofit group.
For these women and others who seek later abortions, the reasons are as varied as for earlier abortions and are often beyond the women’s control.
“It’s really hard to get an abortion in this country,” Christensen said. “And the idea that people can seek care by a certain date is based on the myth that we will get all the information we need by a certain date and that we will be in an equitable environment with equal access to resources and healthcare.” Life. Neither is true.”