2016 will be the first presidential election where I am informed enough to vote… so, with that in mind, I watched the third and final presidential debate yesterday. Although there are many things worth discussing, I feel that the most pressing matter in my eyes is women’s rights. I am a 24 year old single mother, and I am raising a little lady who will one day be affected by the decisions that Americans make in the voting booths next month.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debated about the viability of human life briefly last night, and Hillary stated that she would not vote to reverse Roe v. Wade, nor would she appoint members of the Supreme Court who would choose to do so. In cases of late term abortions, she said that it was important to take into consideration the life and health of the mother. Donald on the other hand, said that he would appoint members of the Supreme Court who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. He went on to say that in the 9th month, abortion is not okay.
“If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it’s not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable,” Trump said. He brought up that women should not be able to kill children via abortion in any instance. (As far as psychotic people with assault rifles shooting up kids in schools go, that’s okay with him.)
I want to give Hillary a quick round of applause for her succinct and intelligent response: “That is not what happens in these cases, and using that type of scare tactic rhetoric is disgusting. I do not believe the government should make that decision for a woman.”
Roe v. Wade was an important Supreme Court decision decided in 1973 which allowed women the right to an abortion, as long as the woman’s health was protected, and the potentiality of human life was protected as well. This means that when a human life is viable outside the womb, abortions are not considered lawful.
Let’s break it down a little further.
When a fetus is considered viable, and the mother is healthy, is the woman entitled to an abortion? No.
When a fetus is considered viable, and the mother’s health is in jeopardy, is the woman entitled to an abortion? Yes.
When a fetus is not considered viable, and the mother is healthy, is the woman entitled to an abortion? Yes.
Viability refers to the point in time where a fetus can survive outside of the womb. In America, it is widely considered that a pregnancy at or beyond 24 weeks is “viable”. At this point, a baby can be born and, with the help of the most extreme and advanced new medical technology, can survive outside the mother’s womb. Even though technologies exist to keep these children alive, many end up disabled. Some, catastrophically so. Further, some pregnancies can reach 40 weeks and, due to unforeseen medical problems, be considered unviable.
That said, 92% of abortions occur before a pregnancy reaches 13 weeks gestation. In 2012, fewer than 1% of abortions are “late term” abortions, and the vast majority of late term abortions occur before 27 weeks. The decision to make these late term abortions are made bravely under harrowing medical circumstances. They are not, as Donald Trump suggested, a common occurrence at all… and when these abortions do occur, they are exclusively for medical reasons.
I have heard of one case of a late-term pregnancy throughout my time in nursing school. During a rotation in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, my charge nurse called me off the floor to speak to a woman in Labor and Delivery who was eight months pregnant with twins about my personal experience in giving birth to a child who was unlikely to survive.
Erin* was a mother of two little boys at home, and was pregnant with twin girls. Twin pregnancies are already more dangerous to carry, but the distribution of nutrition to one child had diminished so much that one of the twins was already dead. The second twin had a brain anomaly, which they knew from a 21 week scan, and wasn’t expected to survive past birth. Carrying a dead fetus inside your body isn’t actually healthy– so Erin had the choice to succumb to infection, or have an abortion by terminating her pregnancy a month early. She opted to terminate her pregnancy via partial birth abortion.
Donald Trump stated in no uncertain terms that he believes instances like this are no exception to the rule. Donald Trump believes that the government should have jurisdiction over a woman’s body, the right to choose whether she lives or dies and whether her husband and two little boys at home grow up without a mother because “ripping a baby out of its mother [is not okay]”.
No woman should have to have the state be involved in what is arguably the most painful decision she will ever make. No woman is able to carry a pregnancy to nine months and decide “on the final day” that she wants an abortion because she isn’t ready to be a mother: these abortions are only deemed medically acceptable when there is a non-viable fetus or the mother’s health is at risk.
Although the debate of Women’s Rights is particularly important to me, I urge you all to think of the topics that will most affect you. Are you worried about how the Marriage Equality Act potentially being overturned may affect your future relationships? Are you or someone you love involved in the military? Are you worried about tax increases, debt, or the future of the economy? The candidate who supports your view in issues that matter most to you should earn your vote. I find that this link is a helpful site that breaks down what each candidate supports very clearly.