This represents the opinion of the Four Corners Free Press.
At first glance, Proposition 115 on the Colorado ballot seems like a very reasonable measure. It would prohibit women from having abortions after the fetus is 22 weeks old, unless the woman’s life is physically (not psychologically) threatened by the pregnancy.
Twenty-two weeks is more than halfway through a pregnancy. A woman who is that far along is in her fifth month. It does seem late for someone to be deciding on an abortion. Why wouldn’t she have one in her first trimester, if she was going to have one at all?
Nevertheless, this proposition has serious flaws and ought to be voted down.
The main one is that it provides no exception for cases in which a fetus is discovered at a late stage to have terrible deformities. This does happen and is often the reason for an abortion late in a pregnancy, though hard data about why later abortion are sought is difficult to obtain. The vast majority of abortions happen earlier. Only about 1.3 percent of them in this country occur after 21 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Many women who seek abortions in their second or even third trimester do so reluctantly, having longed for the baby but finding out that something was terribly wrong. One woman told CNN she was in her 31st week of pregnancy when she learned that the fetus, a girl, had brain deformities that would leave her unable to survive without constant medical intervention – unable to enjoy life, unable even to suck or swallow. The woman could have carried this fetus for weeks longer and delivered it the normal way, but what would have been the point?
Other women learn late in pregnancy that their fetus’s brain is growing not inside its skull, but outside it, a condition called exencephaly. There are a number of other grave conditions that cannot be detected until later in a pregnancy, despite advances in technology that are able to detect other deformities early on. Colorado is a state where some women have to travel in order to obtain these later abortions because they have been made illegal in their home states – even though the serious deformities could not be detected until past 22 weeks.
Now, some women may want to go ahead and carry even a deformed baby to term and see what happens, which is certainly their prerogative. But should a woman be forced to do so, when the outcome looks so horrible?
Carrying for weeks and months a baby inside of you that is not going to be a viable person is not something the state should force on anyone. It would be a torturous ordeal — constantly dealing with people congratulating you on your pregnancy and asking you about the expected child, when you were carrying a doomed fetus. No one should be labeled a “murderer” for choosing to spare herself and her baby a great deal of suffering.
Furthermore, at 22 weeks most fetuses are not truly viable outside the womb, so this is a very arbitrary dividing line.
Proposition 115 is not reasonable or well thought out. It ought to be rejected.