The Texas legislature recently passed, and Governor Rick Perry signed into law, a bill that not only closes most of the state’s abortion clinics, it will also increase the number of babies born with serious birth defects. We have often pondered how a state with six of the 20 most populous cities in the country can be so regressive in its thinking.
On July 11, 2013, Darshak Sanghavi, a pediatric cardiologist, posted a column on Slate.com in which he answers the question, “Who Has an Abortion After 20 Weeks?” In a nutshell, here is how he answers the question: “Comprehensive fetal testing … (is) typically performed just before 20 weeks of gestation. Such scans are critical for uncovering major birth defects.” These defects include severe brain malformations, heart defects, missing organs and limbs, and other serious imperfections.
Therefore, by virtually abolishing the abortion option at 20 weeks of pregnancy, Texas has almost guaranteed that mothers with fetuses that have traumatic defects, and who cannot afford to seek abortions in other states, are considerably more likely to need various forms of public assistance in order to care for their newborns. State taxpayers, in many cases, will have to bear the burden of care, particularly in light of Texas’s rejection of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
So while those with money can hop a flight to, say, New Mexico or Colorado, to terminate a 20-week-plus pregnancy, those without the cash … you get the idea.
But wait – there’s more. Less reliable tests are available at earlier than 20 weeks. There’s just one drawback: they are less reliable. So let’s say a doctor tells the expectant parents that their baby may be suffering from anencephaly (in which a major part of the brain is missing), but that it’s too soon to tell for sure. The parents are now in the position of deciding whether to gamble on a healthy baby or, alternatively, to abort the fetus because they cannot emotionally and financially afford to cope with a severely disabled child. If they opt for the latter, they may be aborting a perfectly healthy fetus.
Is this what Texas lawmakers were intending? Our guess is they either gave it little (or no) thought, or they were more concerned with mollifying the folks who might vote for them.
According to Dr. Sanghavi, approximately one-third of all women in the United States will have an abortion by age 45. One reason is that about half of all pregnancies are unintended, to no small degree because birth control is not foolproof – 5 percent of women on the pill get pregnant each year.
Every year “in Texas, about 85,000 women have an abortion,” explains Sanghavi, “of which only about 1,000 are performed after 20 weeks of gestation.” That’s a little over 1 percent.
Of the 400,000 babies who are born, “16,000 have a birth defect of some type. Of these, about 700 have major brain defects, 600 have major chromosomal disorders, and the rest have any number of other birth defects.”
In the first chapter of our book Enough of Us, we discuss at some length the possibility that pregnancies will end disappointingly, if not in total disaster. It seems to us the lawmakers of Texas are determined to increase the odds of such unfortunate outcomes.
“In the end, restriction on late mid-term abortions may seem motivated by concerns about a healthy fetus; after all, the Texas bill was called the ‘Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.’ But a closer look strongly suggests that no matter what the legislators do, some fetuses and families will still be faced with a great deal of misery.”
Many Texas politicians decry the intrusion of big government into our everyday lives. They may or may not have valid points to make. But this? These lawmakers are telling a significant minority of would-be parents to take a guess, decide whether to abort or not, and hope for the best. If not, they may be stuck with a decision that will mean disaster to both parent and child. Now, that’s big government intrusion.