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President Trump seems to think women just wake up deciding to have third-trimester abortions, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists sets him right.

"I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother's womb," US president Donald Trump, who once described himself as "very pro-choice" only to later insist that women who have abortions should face "some form of punishment" said at his 2019 State of the Union address. 

Perhaps pandering to evangelicals — who, a recent poll suggested, disapprove of the president in larger and larger numbers but whose support will be essential if he is to have any hope of reelection — Trump even invoked God. "Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life," he said, "and let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God."

Donald Trump proceeded to paint dystopian picture as he described legislation that "would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth", making it impossible for them "share their lives and dreams with the world", and about which "lawmakers in New York cheered with delight". 

Shortly after, something interesting happened. The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, a professional association of the very doctors who care for women who find themselves facing the decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy in its later stages, made a statement that could only be interpreted as a rebuttal. 

"Facts are very important, especially when it comes to women's health," the statement begins, continuing: "As with all of women’s health, policy related to abortion care, including abortion later in pregnancy, must be based on medical science and facts. Politicians should never interfere in the patient-physician relationship."

The ACOG then pointed out that:

  • An exceedingly low percentage of abortions taking place on US soil — just over a percent — are carried out after the twenty-first week of pregnancy. 
  • Third trimester abortions (yup, those that might conceivably take place "moments before birth" make up less than a percent of all pregnancy terminations in the United States. 
  • "Late-term abortion" isn't actually a phrase doctors use in clinical practice. 
  • Where such abortions do take place, it is frequently because of "fetal anomalies incompatible with life". The ACOG cited anencephaly, wherein a fetus is tragically missing a brain, and limb-body wall complex, in which the internal organs develop on the outside of the fetal body, as examples. 
  • In some cases, abortions are also carried out later in pregnancy to save the mother's life. In many instances, these situations will also by their very nature greatly reduce the chance of fetal survival. 

We're not talking, then, about women who have been pregnant for months and months and who, just about to have a completely healthy baby, simply decide they'd rather not, perhaps cheered on by lawmakers who'd like to rip innocent babies from their mothers' wombs. No, we're talking about women whose usually very wanted pregnancies were struck by tragedy. Knowing their babies face the prospect of short and painful lives or that they have medical conditions that put their own lives as well as their babies' at risk, they face a heartbreaking choice. 

In these situations, women and their partners deserve compassionate and evidence-based care, not twisted rhetoric that utterly disregards their reality. New York's Reproductive Health Act, which president Trump talked about, seeks to enshrine the right to such care into law by making sure that women whose carrying babies with medical conditions incompatible with life or whose own lives are endangered by their pregnancies can, in fact, still obtain abortions. As such terminations are carried out in few clinics, women already facing tragedy often have to travel out of state and pay tens of thousands of dollars to get the care they need. 

President Trump's version of reality may cater to religious extremists, but it promotes a dangerous future in which the government turns its back on pregnant women during some of the most vulnerable and painful moments of their lives. Let's not go there, the ACOG statement seems to say: "Sound health policy must be based on scientific facts and evidence-based medicine. The best health care is provided free from political interference in the patient-physician relationship."

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