Rutecki: Making the case against late-term abortions

Last Friday, President Donald Trump addressed the 45th annual March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. via webcast. Trump defended his pro-life position, stating, “Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.”

In connection with this issue, Trump recently announced plans to protect healthcare practitioners who object to certain procedures, including abortion, on religious or moral grounds. The Department of Health and Human Services will also form a division of “conscience and religious freedoms” within its Office for Civil Rights. This policy change represents a huge victory for freedom of religion under the First Amendment, because doctors will not have to violate their consciences by performing procedures they believe to be immoral.  

I wholeheartedly agree with Trump’s pro-life stance because I believe that abortions involve the killing of a human life. Additionally, some scientific evidence also supports the view that the child is alive before the time when most abortions are performed. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that 91% of abortions in the year 2012 occurred within the first 13 weeks. Yet, a baby’s heart starts to beat around six weeks, and it is possible to hear the baby’s heartbeat after eight weeks with an early ultrasound exam. How could any person listen to a baby’s heartbeat and not think that the child is alive?   

Ohio Republicans shared my conviction in 2016 when they added a heartbeat ban to an unrelated bill, and passed the bill, that would ban abortions in Ohio after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. While Governor John Kasich ultimately vetoed the bill, he rightfully approved a new law that prevents abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. At 20 weeks, the baby is about the size of a banana, with well-developed limbs. During this stage, it is often possible to determine the baby’s gender using an ultrasound.

However, many abortion advocates were unsatisfied with Kasich’s decision to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks. Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, responded, “[Kasich] may hope that by vetoing a six-week banwhich would have virtually banned abortion with almost no exceptionshe comes off as a moderate.  But Ohio women see right through this and reject this extreme agenda… This is just another shameful attempt by John Kasich to make abortion illegal.”    

A march which occurred the day after the March for Life, the Women’s March on Washington, represents the other side of the abortion debate.  The Women’s March website explains their position on the issue, stating “We believe in Reproductive Freedom.  We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education.  This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.”  Essentially, supporters of the Women’s March contend that the mother has complete freedom throughout the pregnancy process, and that her concerns trump any consideration of the unborn baby’s right to life.    

One problem with this view is that it calls for no restrictions on abortion whatsoever, which helps explain Laguens’ objection to Kasich’s ban after 20 weeks. Abortions that occur after this timeframe are often characterized as late-term abortions. A particularly troubling aspect of late-term abortions is that they must be reconciled with research that suggests that fetuses born at 22 weeks can in some cases survive with medical intervention. Babies born around this time are not just a theoretical concept, however.  For instance, a Wall Street Journal article featured parents Gillian Chassells and Patrick Giles, whose son, Leo, was born prematurely after 24 weeks of gestation. Yet, in some states, that child could have been legally aborted during that time.  

I am not only passionate about the abortion issue because it falls in line with my political beliefs, but because I was a premature baby myself, weighing only 4 pounds at birth.  There was a very real risk that both my mother and I would not survive, but I am indescribably thankful that my parents chose life.       

Paul Rutecki is a fourth-year student majoring in accounting who loves to play cello.