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5 Facts About Late-Term Abortions That Show Why Trump's Description Was Inaccurate

Another presidential debate, another chance for Republican candidate Donald Trump to demonstrate how very little he knows about women's reproductive health and abortion rights. During a discussion on abortion at the third and final presidential debate Oct. 19, moderator Chris Wallace asked the GOP nominee if he wanted the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Trump asserted he would appoint pro-life justices to the Court, claiming that overturning the decision would "happen automatically" as a result, according to Fortune. Later in the debate, he described the process of late-term abortion in erroneous and graphic terms, using what Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton called "scare rhetoric." To help set the record straight, here are five facts about late-term abortions The Donald might want to brush up on.

Before we get started, though, it's important to note that Trump's understanding of the law is incorrect — it's actually not that simple to nullify legal precedent. According to Forbes, the president can’t exactly request the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court is asked to review cases related to abortion every year, and hearing a case requires at least four of the nine justices to agree to grant a Petition for Certiorari, given in very few situations. Even appointing anti-abortion justices to the court, as Trump has pledged to do, doesn't guarantee they'll vote according to his goals: President Ronald Reagan intended to overturn Roe, but two of his three nominees (Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor) later reaffirmed the decision in 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Fact: What Trump characterized as a late-term abortion sounds more like a Cesarean section, a common, safe procedure by which 1 in 3 women give birth every year.

According to debate transcripts, Trump told Wallace:

Depending on the stage of pregnancy, late-term abortions are actually performed in one of two ways. According to the American Pregnancy Association, dilation and evacuation (D&E) is a surgical abortion procedure performed after 16 weeks gestation; after 21 weeks gestation, a method known as dilation and extraction (D&X) is used to terminate a pregnancy. Trump was likely referring to D&X with his comments during the debate, but no abortion procedure — surgical or otherwise — involves "ripping babies out of wombs," according to Forbes. And in neither of the two procedures is the fetus alive. There's also no such thing as a "due-date abortion"... it's actually called birth or an emergency C-section.

When labor is induced anytime later than the 28-week mark, very rarely at 36 weeks, it is usually because a major portion of the baby's brain is missing (called anencephaly) and the baby will not live, according to Vox. But even that is not an abortion.

Fact: Late-term abortion isn't a medical term, but a colloquial one used when referring to abortions that take place towards the end of pregnancy.

The same goes for partial-birth abortion, a political phrase first conceived by the National Right to Life Committee in the '90s to describe D&X, then a newly introduced abortion procedure that has since become standard.

Fact: Abortions performed after the 20th week of pregnancy are incredibly rare.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, just 1.3 percent of abortions occur at the 21st week or later. The vast majority of abortions (more than 98 percent) are performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, aka the first trimester.

Fact: Though Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman's right to an abortion, it also granted states the right to enact certain abortion restrictions related to the second and third trimesters.

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Ukrainian activist holds placard schematically depicting female ovaries during a rally held in front of the Polish embassy in support to Polish women to protest against a proposed law that will ban abortion in Kiev on October 3, 2016. / AFP / Sergei Supinsky (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

For example, as of Oct. 1, 2016, 43 states prohibit abortions after a specified point in pregnancy (usually past the point of viability, defined by most doctors as 24 weeks), except when necessary to protect the woman’s life or health, according to Guttmacher. Other regulations at the state level might restrict coverage of abortion in private insurance plans, in addition to prescribing rules related to waiting periods; mandated counseling; public funding; physician and hospital requirements; and more.  

Fact: The decision to terminate a pregnancy at any stage is not one made lightly.

Courtesy of Counselling

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nearly 1.2 million women have an abortion in the United States every year. The choice to have an abortion is a personal one, and some of the reasons may include:

  • Birth control failure;
  • The presence of severe birth defects;
  • Pregnancy caused by rape or incest;
  • Inability to care for a child; or
  • Physical or mental conditions that endanger the woman's health.  

During the debate's abortion discussion, Clinton reiterated her support for both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood. Her passionate response to Trump's comments is one every woman needs to read, according to Slate:

My response can be summed up in two simple words: YAS QUEEN.