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Fetal Viability And Late Term Abortion: The Facts And The Law

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cali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-01-09 05:54 AM
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Fetal Viability And Late Term Abortion: The Facts And The Law
Abortion and Fetal Viability

In the 1973 ROE V. WADE decision, which established the right to abortion throughout the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional right to privacy extends to the decision of a woman, in consultation with her physician, to terminate a pregnancy. That right, according to the court in Roe, is not absolute and must be balanced against the state's legitimate interest in protecting both the health of the pregnant woman and the developing human life. According to ROE, at the point of fetal viability (when the fetus has the capacity for sustained survival outside the uterus), the state's interest in protecting potential life becomes compelling, and the state may proscribe abortion, except when necessary to preserve the woman's life or health. In PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF CENTRAL MISSOURI V. DANFORTH(1) (1976) and COLAUTTI V. FRANKLIN(2) (1979), the Supreme Court made clear that viability is a medical determination, which varies with each pregnancy, and that it is the responsibility of the attending physician to make that determination


These principles are embodied in the laws of most states. Forty states have enacted legislation severely limiting abortions after fetal viability. Laws in 32 states limit abortions after viability to cases in which the woman's life at serious risk or her health is endangered, although five of the 32 also permit abortions in cases of fetal defect. Laws in seven states permit abortions after viability only when the woman's life is endangered; California is the only state where laws ban late abortions for any reason.(3)

What Is Fetal Viability?

A fetus is viable when it reaches an "anatomical threshold" when critical organs, such as the lungs and kidneys, can sustain independent life. Until the air sacs are mature enough to permit gases to pass into and out of the bloodstream, which is extremely unlikely until at least 23 weeks gestation (from last menstrual period), a fetus cannot be sustained even with a respirator, which can force air into the lungs but cannot pass gas from the lungs into the bloodstream.(4)

While medical advances have increased the survival of infants born between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation, the point of viability has moved little over the past decade; at the earliest, it remains at approximately 24 weeks, where it was when the Supreme Court decided Roe -- a fact acknowledged by the court in its recent decision in PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA V. CASEY.(5) A study of infant survival by researchers at Case Western Reserve University Medical School found that the rate of survival for infants born before 25 weeks gestation has not improved appreciably in recent years.(6)


Abortions After Fetal Viability

Abortions after fetal viability are extremely rare. Half of the 1.5 million abortions in the U.S. each year take place within the first eight weeks of pregancy; nine in 10 occur within the first 12 weeks. Less than 1 percent are performed after 20 weeks.(11) Some 300-600 abortions -- or up to four one-hundredths of 1 percent -- are performed after 26 weeks.(12)

Abortions after fetal viability take place in the most compelling of circumstances.

Eight in 10 Americans surveyed consistently say that abortion should be legal in cases of fetal defect.(13) Severe fetal defects often are not diagnosed until late in pregnancy. Amniocentesis, which can be used to diagnose hundreds of these serious fetal conditions, may not produce results until after 20 weeks of gestation.(14) Consequently, locating a physician who will perform the abortion(15), making travel arrangements, and securing the necessary funds may be a time-consuming process.

Other tragic circumstances sometimes turn a wanted pregnancy into a potential medical disaster. In some cases, a preexisting medical condition, such as heart or kidney disease, may be so severely exacerbated by pregnancy that the woman's life is threatened. In other cases, a pregnant woman who had thought she was completely healthy may be diagnosed with a serious medical condition such as breast cancer. In these cases, an abortion becomes medically indicated, since continuing the pregnancy would make treatment impossible. In still other cases, pregnancy itself may cause some dangerous conditions, such as preeclampsia -- which do not become severe until late in pregnancy.

In addition to abortions for medical indications such as these, abortions after viability also are sought by a very small number of women in extremely difficult life situations, such as very young girls who conceal their pregnancies or who may be victims of incest; women who abuse alcohol or other drugs; or women who suffer severe mental or emotional impairments.


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hobbit709 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-01-09 06:00 AM
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1. Don't you know that facts are overruled by Jeebus?
:sarcasm: (Just in case someone reads this and is slow on the uptake)
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cali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-01-09 06:01 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. yeah, I know.
posting facts is pointless.
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secondwind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-01-09 06:00 AM
Response to Original message
2. thanks for the reinforces my belief now more than ever that
these right-wing extremists know nothing about a woman and pregnancy, only that ONE AND A HALF MILLION BABIES ARE KILLED EVERY YEAR.

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