The trial of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell brought the gruesome nature of late-term abortion to the forefront of the national consciousness. A recent Gallup poll indicates that Americans overwhelmingly support banning later abortions. The difference between Gosnell's actions in killing the child after it is born alive and aborting the child in the womb is merely a matter of location.
Many states have recognized this by passing bans on abortions 20 weeks after fertilization. The Texas Legislature is considering just such a measure Monday. As a nation, we must examine the practice of late-term abortion and protect unborn children from painful abortion procedures.
The sad reality is that Gosnell operated in Pennsylvania under a valid medical license, yet state officials ignored his actions for more than a decade. He was convicted of murdering three babies born alive and 21 counts of abortion after the 24-week state ban. However, many states have no similar ban.
The Supreme Court consistently noted in its 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling that advances in medical knowledge and technology may warrant changes in abortion law. The "viability" marker creeps ever lower as technology improves. Now, thanks to medical advances, children born as early as 20 weeks after fertilization (22 weeks of pregnancy, as doctors usually measure it) can survive outside the womb. And many doctors now routinely give unborn babies anesthesia at 20 weeks or later during fetal surgery because they can feel pain.
Some say abortion bans at 20 weeks cannot be justified because of fetal abnormalities diagnosed after that time. Allowing late-term abortion for babies with fetal abnormalities confronts us with arbitrary fetal euthanasia. Which conditions? What about Down syndrome? Cleft palate? A missing finger? Ending lives for such things is illegal for children after birth, so why is it acceptable to end their lives before birth?
Justifications for condemning 20-week abortion bans fail to address the inherent humanity and individuality of the person being aborted and ignore a legitimate interest in preventing such painful practices.
The unborn child is a unique individual, deserving of protection. The 20-week abortion ban is a common-sense step in protecting those children from experiencing unnecessary pain and from being denied the basic right to life.