Ivette Gomez, Alina Salganicoff, and Laurie Sobel - KFF
Published: Feb 21, 2024
Abortions occurring at or after 21 weeks gestational age are rare. They are often difficult to obtain, as they are only available in a handful of states, performed by a small subset of abortion providers and are typically costly and time-intensive. Yet, these abortions receive a disproportionate share of attention in the news, policy and the law.
…This brief explains why individuals may seek abortions later in pregnancy, how often these procedures occur, and the various laws which regulate access to abortions later in pregnancy across the country.
By Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
JAN. 30, 2023
You hear people say the term “third rail” all the time in politics, usually in reference to an issue that is too volatile — too charged — to touch. For decades, abortion later in pregnancy has been one of those issues. As recently as four years ago, a proposal to loosen restrictions on third-trimester abortions went down in flames in Virginia after Republicans accused Democratic lawmakers of advocating for infanticide — an attack that was misleading but effective.
But the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, has changed the current running through the abortion debate. And now Democratic legislators may have new opportunities to try and expand abortion rights — including abortions in the late second and early third trimester of pregnancy.
Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press
June 1, 2022
An 18-year-old was undergoing treatment for an eating disorder when she learned she was pregnant, already in the second trimester. A mom of two found out at 20 weeks that her much-wanted baby had no kidneys or bladder. A young woman was raped and couldn't fathom continuing a pregnancy.
Abortions later in pregnancy are relatively rare, even more so now with the availability of medications to terminate early pregnancies.
The number of people seeking later abortions is undoubtedly about to increase, and our medical system is unprepared to care for them.
By Garnet Henderson, The Nation
May 28, 2022
In October of 2021, Kristyn Smith checked herself out of the hospital in Charleston, W.Va., where she had been denied an abortion. Bleeding and in pain, Smith drove for six hours with her fiancé to Washington, D.C., to have the procedure performed there. On the day of her first appointment at the Dupont Clinic, she was 27 weeks pregnant. “They were the sweetest, most compassionate people that I had ever met,” she said of the clinic staff, who made her feel safe and supported. The seven weeks leading up to her arrival there, however, had been a “nightmare.”
“It’s just normal folks who end up getting pushed back and pushed back and pushed back.”
JUNE 3, 2021
When the Supreme Court decided recently to consider Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, Marjorie Dannenfelser from Susan B. Anthony List said: “This is a landmark opportunity for the Supreme Court to recognize the right of states to protect unborn children from the horrors of painful late-term abortions.”
Dannenfelser’s choice to invoke “late-term abortions” was pointed. Typically, the phrase refers to abortions performed after 21 weeks, but I’ve seen anti-abortion advocates in particular use “late term” in reference to abortions anywhere after 15 weeks. Crucially, there is no real definition or medical designation for what constitutes a late-term abortion, so it’s used somewhat haphazardly. Medical experts also criticize the term for implying that abortions are taking place after a pregnancy reaches “term” at 37 weeks—which does not happen—or a point in pregnancy referred to by obstetricians as “late term,” up to 41 weeks—which also does not happen.
By Amanda Connolly, Global News
Posted May 20, 2021
The number of Canadian women going south of the border to receive medically necessary abortions has dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the Ontario government and a sexual health expert who says her organization has seen a drop.
Over the last five years, dozens of Canadian women primarily from Ontario have been referred each year to doctors and clinics in the United States to receive medically necessary abortions they cannot access at home, which are covered under their provincial health-care plans.
By Natarsha Kallios
Feb 18, 2021
A historic bill to decriminalise abortion in South Australia has passed the State Parliament's Lower House, following a heated and lengthy debate.
Members of Parliament were granted a conscience vote on the bill, which moves abortion from the Criminal Law Consolidation Act and into healthcare legislation.
By Valérie Gauriat
In front of one of Warsaw's main hospitals, an ominous van is parked. Its sides are covered in an image of what is allegedly a dead fetus. It's a message from anti-abortion groups to one of the capital’s few facilities that still perform pregnancy terminations.
A recent ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal has just toughened one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Terminations in Poland were once only allowed in cases of rape, incest, danger to the mother's health or life, serious defects of the fetus or incurable disease. The new amendments mean that last option is now prohibited.
By Mary Angeles Armstrong
January 1, 2021
It was hard—and it was something I just knew right away," remembers Jenn Chalifoux. She was 18 and on leave from college, at home in Long Island to receive treatment for anorexia, when she realized she was pregnant. Since a common side effect of anorexia is amenorrhea (a cessation of the menstrual cycle), missed periods didn't sound the alarm bell. She was surrounded by doctors, having blood work frequently, and on birth control. "It didn't even occur to me that I might [be pregnant]," she recalls. "My medical team thought my menstrual cycle would return as I progressed in my recovery." When it didn't, months into her treatment, Chalifoux took a pregnancy test at a friend's house. It came back positive and a follow-up appointment with her doctor revealed that she was well into her second trimester. It was a shock.
The state remains one of seven with no gestational limits on the procedure.
By Anna North
Nov 3, 2020
Colorado voters just rejected a measure that would have banned abortion in the
state after 22 weeks’ gestation, according to the New York Times and the
The measure, Proposition 115, was backed by the anti-abortion group Due Date
Too Late, which argued that abortions after 22 weeks were inhumane. But
supporters of abortion rights were concerned about the impact of the measure on
pregnant people, not just in Colorado, but around the country.