Donald Trump presented a grossly inaccurate view of abortion in the United States, and not surprisingly, misled in his interpretation of Hillary Clinton’s position on late-term abortions during the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night.
Trump described a world, where, if Clinton had her way, “you can take baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”
“Because based on what she is saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take baby and rip the baby out of the womb. In the ninth month. On the final day. That’s not acceptable,” he said.
Trump isn’t the first to claim that Clinton’s late-term abortion position amounts to legal abortions, without restriction, through the entirety of the pregnancy and up until birth. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) made a similar claim at a GOP primary debate — arguing that Clinton “believes all abortions should be legal even on the due date” — a claim that Politifact rated false.
Firstly, abortion after the 20th week of the pregnancy is already very rare. Only 1.3 percent of abortions occur at the 21st week or later, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and only 16 percent of abortion providers offer the procedure through the 24th week.
The term “late-term abortion,” it should be noted, is not a medical term, but one used generally for abortions towards the end of the pregnancy. Currently, 19 states have laws banning abortion specifically post-viability, according to Guttmacher, and about two dozen have bans between 20 and 24 weeks, before the generally accepted point of viability. Some, but not all, of those bans include exemptions for the health and life of the women.
Clinton’s position on abortion is that it should be legal and accessibility should be in line with Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to procedure up until the fetus is viable, another murky term, as viability can vary among pregnancies, but is generally understood to be between 24 and 28 weeks. It also said that any restrictions to post-viability abortions should include exemptions for women’s health.
In the past, Clinton has suggested she would be open to late-term abortion restrictions.
“I have been on record in favor of a late-pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother,” she said at the primary debate.
Ironically, this position raised some questions in the primary, as it appeared to put Clinton — who was endorsed by major abortion rights groups — to the right of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who said he opposed any such regulation.
At Wednesday’s debate she was asked about her opposition to late-term abortion bans. She said that when she has opposed those sort of bans — namely her unsuccessful vote as a senator against the federal ban –it was with the health of the women seeking them in mind.
“Because Roe V. Wade very clearly sets out that there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account. And when I voted as a senator, I did not think that that was the case,” Clinton said, describing women she has met who have discovered late in their pregnancy that carrying it to a term is a risk to their health. “So you can regulate, if you are doing so with the life and the health of the mother taken into account.”
She also pushed back Trump’s description of late-term abortions.
“That’s not what happens in these cases. Using that kind of scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate,” Clinton said, again citing the women she has met. “This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make. And I do not believe the government should be making it.”