President Trump has made a series of comments about late-term abortion that medical experts say don't represent the truth.

By Lisa Milbrand
May 01, 2019
Doctor Talking to Patient Sitting on Table
Credit: S_L/Shutterstock

May 1, 2019

In recent weeks, as several states debated legislation banning late-term abortions, President Trump has had a lot to say about the matter. Most recently, at a rally in Wisconsin, he chastised the governor of the state for vetoing a bill that required doctors to intervene medically if an aborted fetus is born alive. He described what happens in that scenario this way: "The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully. Then the doctor and mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby."

Anyone can agree that that scenario would be shocking—and would be tantamount to murder. But medical experts have said that it's also grossly inaccurate. After Trump's rally, a Twitter thread by NICU nurse Julia Pulver, RN, went viral. Pulver, who was specially trained to work on her hospital's bereavement team, recounts the tragic stories that no one wants to have happen. Because the truth about late-term abortion is that they're exceedingly rare (only 1.3 percent of abortions take place after 21 weeks gestation, according to the CDC) and these babies are almost always desperately wanted. Late-term abortion becomes a path of last resort, after a devastating diagnosis from a doctor—that the baby has a lethal birth defect or other serious issues that indicate that life after birth will be painful and inevitably, heartbreakingly short. "Babies and children die, it's a sad part of life," Pulver says. "But no one, absolutely NO ONE ever, in any hospital, nor any mother who has just given birth, is conspiring with a doctor on whether or not to commit infanticide. This is perhaps one of the sickest accusations levied."

The uproar over abortions after 20 weeks has led many women who had them to start coming forward to share their stories. They are never stories of women who waited too long to have an abortion.

The New York Times published a piece by OB-GYN Jen Gunter, about the loss of her own child at 22 weeks—and about the women who she helps through these heartbreaking situations. As she indicates, it's often a kindness to the baby not to intercede beyond providing comfort, when death is inevitable. And she didn't intercede for her own child, who was born alive, but too young to survive outside the womb. USA Today published the story of Kate Carson, who had a late-term abortion after her baby was diagnosed with catastrophic brain malformations that would have meant she wouldn't be able to hold her head up, talk, or swallow. The heartbreaking detail? "'Do children like mine just sleep all the time?' I asked. The neurologist winced. Children like yours, he told me—slowly—are not often comfortable enough to sleep."

But if the federal law that Democrats struck down earlier this year—and law that Wisconsin's governor vetoed this week—come to fruition, parents would no longer be given the leeway to decide to choose hospice-like comfort care for children who would live like Carson's, in pain and unable to live anything approaching a normal life. Instead, the doctors would be required to provide heroic medical care—and prolong the pain and the inevitable.