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Defending Life: Series #9

[The ninth season of Fr. Frank Pavone's "Defending Life" series on EWTN was taped in the summer of 2003 and is airing in 2004. Below is an outline of Episode 7 of that series.]

Show 7 -- "Basics of Abortion"

"Are abortions even done in the third trimester of pregnancy? See the proof on this program!"

Where do we find out the statistics about abortion? There are basically two sources: The Alan Guttmacher Institute (a research division of Planned Parenthood) and the Centers for Disease Control. Find out more about these sources on our statistics page.

Nothing in our world claims more human lives than abortion: no crime, no disease, no natural disaster, no war. In fact, all the war casualties our nation has ever endured do not add up to the number of lives abortion takes in a single year. Click here to see a chart about this.

In our nation's annual statistics about the total numbers of deaths, the babies killed by abortion are not counted. But if they were, it would be obvious that they are the largest group of victims. In fact, the number of deaths by abortion are almost twice that of the next leading cause of death (heart disease), and would constitute 35% of the new total. Click here for a bar graph of the leading causes of death, abortion included, and click here for a pie chart comparing the percentage of deaths by abortion to other causes. These two items were created by combining statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics and from the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

When we begin to examine the numbers of abortions and the reasons women get them, a helpful presentation is provided on the Alan Guttmacher website at 
We note especially the following slides in that presentation:

5 -- "Outcomes of unintended pregnancies"

6 -- "Incidence of abortion"
Here the figure given for abortions in the year 2000 is 1.31 million.

7 -- "Annual number of abortions"
It is clear that since 1980 the abortion rate (that is, the number of abortions per 1000 women of childbearing age) has been declining.

10 -- "Most Important Reason Given"
An average of 3 or 4 reasons are given when a woman explains why she wants an abortion. The reasons most frequently given have nothing to do with any medical condition of the woman or the baby. Those reasons are as follows:
* Inadequate finances
* Not ready for responsibility
* Woman's life would be changed too much
* Problems with relationship; unmarried
* Too young; not mature enough
* Children are grown; woman has all she wants

On the other hand, note the percentages accompanying the following reasons at the bottom of the list:
* Fetus has possible health problem -- 3%
* Woman has health problem -- 3%
* Pregnancy caused by rape, incest -- 1%

12 -- "Abortions by Gestational Age"
Here we see that the abortion industry's own statistics show some 12% of abortions occurring after the 12th week of pregnancy. That translates into 157,200 abortions a year, by their statistics. Abortions at 21 weeks and beyond, by their statistics, are 19,650 in the course of a year.

13 -- "Reasons for Abortions after 16 Weeks"
The most common reason given for later abortions is that the woman did not realize she was pregnant. Not paying attention to one's body, along with the power of denial, can easily account for this. Other reasons are likewise rooted in ambivalence and denial: fear of telling others, hope that circumstances will change and then relapsing into despair, or wanting more time to make the decision. In other cases, various difficulties arose in arranging for the abortion, or circumstances changed later in pregnancy, such as a break in the relationship, a change in financial status, or a diagnosis of a medical problem.

Abortionists have different limits at which they stop doing abortions. This in itself raises questions about their position and shows the arbitrariness of any position that does not hold life begins at conception. But one might be shocked at how many perform late abortions, and even Third Trimester abortions.

Following are quotes from abortionists who spoke at meetings of the National Abortion Federation. You can also hear the audio.

National Abortion Federation
16th Annual Meeting
Abortion: Moral Choice and Medical Imperative
April 12-15, 1992 in San Diego, CA

Dr. Martin Haskell:

"In summary, Dilation and Extraction is an alternative method for achieving late second trimester abortions to 26 weeks. It can be used in the third trimester. Among its advantages are that it is a quick surgical out-patient method that can be performed on a scheduled out-patient basis under local anesthesia. Among its disadvantages are that it requires a high degree of surgical skill and may not be appropriate for a few patients."

Click here to listen to the audio clip of Dr. Haskell (mp3 format).

National Abortion Federation
Risk Management Seminar
September 13 & 14, 1992
Dallas, Texas

Ethical Issues in Second Trimester Abortion


"I do a fair number of third trimester abortions though I commonly hear this question about, does it feel pain, and I answer by telling them the fetus is sharing the same medicine you're getting in your blood stream, the placental circulation goes to the fetus and really it's difficult for the fetus up to 32 weeks to really identify pain and integrate it. The answer to the question is, no, the fetus doesn't feel pain. The question is, in the third trimester we have trouble at the margins where, say in a trisomy 21, that's a whole range of things. Some do rather well and have educable IQ's, others do very poorly, high instances of congestive heart disease, duodenal atresia, et cetera. I think the issue is, who makes the decision more than anything else. My opinion is, it should be the mother."

Click here to listen to the audio clip of Jim (mp3 format).

We now move onto a consideration of who has abortions, breaking this question down into various categories and again relying on the charts found on the website of the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

19 -- "Who has abortions -- Age"
Note that the largest single age bracket is not teenagers, but rather 20-24 years (one-third of all abortions), followed by 25-29 years (23.1% of all abortions).

20 -- "Who has abortions - Marital Status"
It should be noted that abortions among married women are a significant problem, constituting some 17% of all abortions (that is, 222,700 abortions in a year), with another 15.6% (that is, 204,360 abortions) among the separated, divorced, and widowed.

21 -- "Who has abortions - Economic Status"

22 -- "Who has abortions -- Race/Ethnicity"

23 -- "Who has abortions -- Religious Identification"

24 -- "Who has abortions -- Prior Pregnancies"

Many are familiar with the statistic that half of the abortions in America are repeat abortions, that is, that the woman has had the procedure at least once before. Not as familiar are the numbers of women who have had two, three, or more previous abortions. According to the Centers for Disease Control in their 1999 Abortion Surveillance report, 48% of women getting abortions had at least one abortion previously. The percentage of women having had one previous abortion was 26.2%, which, in relation to the CDC total for that year (which is lower than the actual total), means 176,975 women getting a second abortion.
The percentage of women who got abortions having had two previous abortions was 11.2%. In other words, in 1999, 75,374 women got their third abortion.
The CDC reports that 7.5% of those who got abortions had obtained three or more abortions previously. The number of women, then, for whom the abortion was their fourth, fifth, or more was 50,682.
(Note: An additional 3.2%, or 21,619, were marked "unknown" as to the numbers of previous abortions. Also remember that the state of California did not report any of its abortion statistics to the CDC in 1999.)

Click here to see a pie chart with these statistics.



Priests for Life
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