At the final presidential debate, Donald Trump spouted a common and damaging untruth about abortion, saying that as late as "one or two" days prior to birth, doctors could "rip the baby out of the womb." Ever since his use of such horrifying imagery on the national stage, the debate over late term abortion has heated up, with many wondering if it's true that babies are torn apart in late term abortion. The short answer: no, they are not.
First of all, in talking about abortion myths, late term abortions are incredibly rare. As USA Today reports, only 1.3 percent of abortions performed in the United States occur after the halfway mark. And while it's hard to know the exact reason for every single one of those abortions, the vast majority of them are performed because the mother's life is at risk, or because the baby has developed such serious health defects that it wouldn't survive outside of the womb.
As for the "personal reasons" that anti-abortion activists often focus on, in the quest to paint women who get late term abortions as heartless murderers, OB-GYN and trained late term abortion provider Jennifer Gunter wrote a piece for Vox in which she dismantled Trump's claim, saying:
Is it possible one or two women may have an abortion at 24 or 25 weeks in [states where it is legal] and it not be for the health of mother? Technically yes, but honestly I’ve never heard of it happening. People seem to forget when they talk about these theoretical post-24 week abortions for personal reasons that a pregnant person would need $15,000 or more in cash.
Furthermore, Gunter points out that what those opposed to abortion might deem a "ninth month abortion" is actually a C-section, or inducing labor. And doctors do not, as she says, "commit infanticide" once the baby is delivered.
Now about the "tearing a baby apart" rhetoric: In highly rare situations, in late term abortions (which, again, are almost always performed because otherwise the expectant mother would die, or the fetus would not survive outside of the womb), doctors do have to remove the fetus in pieces so that the abortion can be performed without damaging the pregnant woman's cervix. But it is not a matter of wantonly "ripping the baby apart."
As a woman who went through her own painful late term abortion wrote, these types of abortions "are always humanely done, only in situations where there is a non-viable or severely defective fetus and/or the mother's health is at risk."
Ever since Trump's comments, women have been sharing their gut-wrenching stories of choosing a late-term abortion after receiving the worst news an expectant mother could get. Their stories only reinforce that late term abortion is a difficult decision, and one that a woman should be allowed to make without the state interfering.