"." By James D. Agresti. Just Facts, September 24, 2008. Revised 5/13/15.

Introductory Notes

One of the major battlegrounds for this issue concerns terminology. In keeping with our Standards of Credibility, the language used here is descriptive and precise. Hence, expressions such as "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are replaced by words that describe specific positions.


In accord with the journalism standard to "never use … a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent," [1] [2] the term used by Just Facts to describe the object of an abortion is "preborn human." This conveys reality in everyday language and is consistent with medical textbooks that use the word "human" when referring to life before birth.[3] [4] [5] [6]



* The following are facts about human development.





* Fertilization normally takes place within one day of intercourse.[7] At fertilization, the genetic composition of a preborn human is formed.[8] This genetic information determines gender, eye color, hair color, facial features, and influences characteristics such as intelligence and personality.[9]



4 Weeks after Fertilization:


The heart is beating and a circulatory system is in place.[10] Specific brain components and internal organs such as the lungs are beginning to develop and can be identified.[11]



7 Weeks after Fertilization:


* Muscles and nerves begin working together. When the upper lip is tickled, the arms move backwards.[12] The portion of the brain associated with consciousness has divided into halves.[13]




9 Weeks after Fertilization:


* More than 90% of the body structures found in a full-grown human are present. The medical classification changes from an embryo to a fetus. From this point forward, most development involves growth in existing body structures instead of the formation of new ones.[15] [16]



10 Weeks after Fertilization:


All parts of the brain and spinal cord are formed. The heart pumps blood to every part of the body.[17] The whole body is sensitive to touch except for portions of the head. The preborn human makes facial expressions.[18]



11 Weeks after Fertilization:





16 Weeks after Fertilization:


* The preborn human makes eye movements.[20]




18 Weeks after Fertilization:


* The portion of the brain responsible for functions such as reasoning and memory has the same number of nerve cells as a full-grown adult.[22] [23]






20 Weeks after Fertilization:


* The preborn human sleeps, awakes and can hear sounds.[25]




Up through approximately this point in time, according to the Supreme Court's rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a pregnant woman can abort at will. (More details in the section on Constitution and Law.)



24 Weeks after Fertilization:


* The grip is strong enough to hold onto an object that is moving up and down.[27] If born and given specialized care, the survival rate is more than 80%.[28]



32 Weeks after Fertilization:


(Premature infant – 3 days after birth)



38 Weeks after Fertilization:


* Average point in time when humans are born.[29]


* At any point prior to birth, according to the Supreme Court's rulings in Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a pregnant woman can abort to preserve her "health." One example from Roe v. Wade of what may be considered harmful to a mother's health is the work of caring for a child. (More details in the section on Constitution and Law.)


Politics and Taxpayer Funding

Party platforms

* The 2008 Democratic Party Platform states that abortion should be generally legal, supports the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, and supports the use of taxpayer funding to perform abortions.[30]


* The Republican Party Platform states that abortion should be generally illegal and supports a Constitutional Amendment that would assure preborn humans the right to life. It opposes "using public revenues to promote or perform abortion." [31]



* In interviews conducted in August 2008, John McCain and Barack Obama were asked, "At what point does a baby get human rights?"


Barack Obama responded in part:


I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.[32]


John McCain responded in part:


At the moment of conception.[33]



* John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign web site states that "Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned…." [34]


* Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have voiced support for Roe v. Wade and stated that this would be reflected in their appointments to the Supreme Court.[35] [36] [37] They have also stated that they support a ban on late term abortions, but only with an exception for the "health" of the mother.[38] [39]


* The Roe v. Wade verdict provides several examples of what may constitute a risk the health of the mother. These include the "stigma of unwed motherhood" and the "distress"  "associated with the unwanted child." Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which were issued by the Supreme Court on the same day with the order that they "are to be read together," mandate that abortion be legal up until the point of birth if any one physician willing to perform an abortion decides it is necessary to preserve a mother's health.[40] [41] (More details in the section on Constitution and Law.)


Judicial Appointments

* The President of the United States appoints judges to the Supreme Court. These appointments must be approved by a majority of the Senate.[42] Once seated, federal judges serve for life unless they voluntarily resign or are removed through impeachment.[43]


* For implications relating to the appointment and approval of judges, see the section on Constitution and Law.


Women's Health

Deaths from Legal and Illegal Abortions


* The website of Planned Parenthood states:


In the two decades before abortion was legal in the United States, nearly one million women went "underground" each year for illegal operations. Thousands died for lack of medical care.[44]


* No sources are cited for the statements above. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, whose death statistics from legal abortions have been accepted and used by Planned Parenthood,[45] [46] [47]  in the year before Roe v. Wade (1972), there were 39 deaths from illegal abortions. In the year after Roe v. Wade (1974), there were 26 deaths from legal abortions.[48]


* Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control, a Planned Parenthood Fact Sheet asserted that the "risk of death associated with childbirth is about 10 times as high as that associated with abortion." [49] [50] [51]


* From 1989 through 1992, the Centers for Disease Control reported zero abortion-related deaths in the state of Maryland.[52] [53] [54] [55]


* During 1989 in the state of Maryland:


- Erica Kae Richardson (16 years-old) was admitted to an emergency room on March 1st with a punctured uterus from an abortion carried out earlier that day at a clinic in Laurel, Maryland. She died shortly after midnight on March 2nd.[56] [57] [58] [59]


- Paramedics arrived at an abortion clinic in Suitland, Maryland on July 12th to find Debra M. Gray (34 years-old) in cardiac arrest after being administered anesthesia without the presence of an anesthesiologist. She was taken to a hospital and died three days later.[60]


- Paramedics arrived at an abortion clinic in Suitland, Maryland on September 10th to find Susanne Renee Logan (32 years-old) in cardiac arrest with an oxygen mask placed upside down on her face. It was found that she had been given anesthesia without the presence of an anesthesiologist. The paramedics resuscitated Ms. Logan, she stayed in a coma for four months, and was generally paralyzed until her death in 1992.[61] [62] [63]


- Gladys Estanislao, a 28-year-old college student, was found lifeless on a bathroom floor 17 days after undergoing an abortion procedure at a clinic in Bethesda, Maryland. Her autopsy revealed that the pregnancy was not in her womb but in her fallopian tube, which caused it to rupture and resulted in her death.[64] [65] [66] This condition, called an ectopic pregnancy, is screened by a blood test or ultrasound, has a mortality rate of 1 in 2,000, and is typically diagnosed on the first visit to a gynecologist.[67] [68] [69]



* In 1987, the New York City Commissioner of Health wrote a letter to abortion clinics warning them to be careful about using too much anesthesia. The letter stated:


During the period between 1981 and 1984, there were 30 legal abortion-related deaths in New York City.[70]


* For the same time period, the Centers for Disease Control reported a total of 42 legal abortion-related deaths in the United States.[71]


* If both of these numbers are accurate, it would mean that 71% of the legal abortion-related deaths in the United States occurred in one city where about 3% of the population lived.[72]


Effects on Future Pregnancies


* An "Abortion Services" page on Planned Parenthood's website states:


Abortion DOES NOT

• Cause premature birth, birth defects or low infant birth weight in future pregnancies

• Increase the chance of infant death in the future [73]


* A 2007 paper in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine cites 59 studies that exhibit an association between abortion and the risk of premature births in later pregnancies. In five of the largest and more recent of these studies, all found increases in premature births in women who had an abortion. All of these studies also found that this risk escalated when more than one abortion was performed.[74] Children born prematurely are at increased risks for early death, cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness and other health complications.[75]





* In April of 2007 at a political event in Iowa, John McCain stated:


I have a steadfast and strong advocacy and voting record in support of the rights of the unborn.[76]


* At the same event, Mike Huckabee stated:


 I'm not late in declaring that I believe life begins at conception and that we ought to protect human life…. [77]


* In an article about this event in the New York Times written by Adam Nagourney, it is stated that John McCain and Mike Huckabee "presented themselves as lifelong opponents of abortion rights." Four times in this article, candidates are characterized as opponents of abortion rights and never as supporters of rights for the unborn.[78]


* Media phraseology:



"opponent(s) of …

Number of times phrase was used in

New York Times (1981-current)

Washington Post


Associated Press


abortion rights"




gun rights"




property rights"




parental rights"




individual rights"




states' rights"




religious rights"








* Roe v. Wade and its accompanying ruling, Doe v. Bolton, mandate that abortion be legal up until the point of birth if any one physician willing to perform an abortion decides it is necessary to preserve a mother's "health." [80] [81]


* In January 2002, the Gallup polling organization reported:


 If Roe v. Wade is presented only as legalizing abortion in the first three months, support for the decision is much higher than if it is characterized as making abortion legal throughout pregnancy or for any reason.[82]


* Since this time, the Associated Press, Quinnipiac University, the Pew Research Center, NBC News, the Wall Street Journal, and Harris Poll have all conducted polls in which they characterized Roe v. Wade as making abortion legal in the first "three months of pregnancy." [83]


* In three articles published in 2007 and 2008, by the Associated Press asserted that the United States "permits abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy." [84] Media outlets that carried one or more of these stories include ABC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News, Yahoo News, AOL News, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and more than 50 other local, state, national and international publications.[85]


Parental Consent & Notification

State Laws


* As of February 1, 2015:


- 38 states have a law in effect that requires parental consent or notification for a minor to have an abortion.[86] [87]


-  5 states have a parental consent or notification law that is being blocked by a court.[88] [89]


- 7 states have no laws requiring parental consent or notification for abortions.[90]



* In the state of Washington, it is against the law to apply a tattoo to anyone under the age of 18.[91]


* In the State of New Jersey, it is against the law for anyone under 18 years of age to get a tattoo or body piercing without written consent from their parent or legal guardian.[92]


* In the State of California, it is against the law for anyone under 18 years of age to use a tanning machine without written consent from their parent or legal guardian.[93]


* In Washington, New Jersey and California, it is legal for a girl of any age to get an abortion without her parent's consent or knowledge.[94] [95] [96]




* The Democratic Party Platform makes no explicit reference to parental consent or notification laws.[97] The Republican Party Platform supports parental notification laws and makes no explicit reference to parental consent laws.[98]


* John McCain is a cosponsor of a bill to prohibit transporting minors across state lines to evade state laws that require parental involvement in a minor's abortion.[99]


* Sarah Palin supports parental consent legislation and when Alaska's Supreme Court struck down such a law in a 3-2 decision, she backed a constitutional amendment aimed at restoring it.[100] [101] [102]


* On a 2001 vote in the Illinois Senate for a parental notification bill, Barack Obama voted "Present." [103] [104]


* Illinois Senate rules state that "a majority of those elected" must vote in favor of a bill for it to pass. Thus, a vote of "Present" has the same result as a vote of "No." [105]


Rape and Federal Law


* A 2000 U.S. Department of Justice study found that the incidence of forcible rape peaked at the ages of 14 and 15.




* Arkansas law requires written consent of a parent (not a step-parent) before an abortion is performed upon a female who is less than 18 years of age.[107] In 2006, a 15-year-old Arkansas girl accused her 41-year-old stepfather of raping her, getting her pregnant, forcing her to have an abortion in Illinois (where there is no parental consent or notification law in effect), and continuing to rape her afterwards.[108] [109] [110] [111]


* The girl's claim that she was taken to an abortion clinic in Granite City, Illinois was corroborated by a photo of her stepfather's car at this facility.[112] He was arrested, charged with a dozen counts of rape and committed suicide before trial.[113] [114]


* In 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would have required abortion providers in states without parental involvement laws to give at least 24 hours notice to a parent before performing an abortion on a minor who resides in another state. This provision included exceptions for parental abuse, neglect, and if the physical health of the minor was endangered.[115] 93% of Republicans voted for it and 71% of Democrats voted against it. (Click for a record of how each Representative voted.)


* After being approved by the House, the bill was sent to the Senate where it was blocked by 37 Democrats, 4 Republicans, and 1 Independent. This included Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe. (Click for a record of how each Senator voted.)


Partial Birth

* Partial birth abortion, as explained in the New York Times, entails when a preborn human


is partly extracted from the birth canal, feet first, and the brain is then suctioned out.[116] [117]


* According to the executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, this procedure was typically performed at 20+ weeks.[118]


* Preborn human at 20 weeks after fertilization:




* During Bill Clinton's presidency, two bills to ban partial birth abortion were passed by Congress. In both cases, at least 90% of Republicans voted for the bill and more than 60% of Democrats voted against it. Clinton vetoed both of these bills and neither became law.[120] [121] [122] [123] [124] [125]


* During George W. Bush's presidency, Congress passed a bill to ban partial birth abortions with 95% of Republicans voting for it and 62% of Democrats voting against it. (Click for a record of how each Congressman voted.) Bush signed this bill into law in November 2003.[126] [127] [128]


* This law does not ban late-term abortions; only the partial birth procedure.[129] It does not prohibit giving a lethal injection to a preborn human and performing a partial birth abortion afterwards.[130] It does not prohibit dismemberment abortions, in which "the fetal limbs are pulled off the body in utero, sometimes while the fetus is still alive." [131] [132]


* After this law was enacted, several abortion providers challenged it in court.[133] In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in a 5-4 vote.[134] Of the five Supreme Court justices who ruled to uphold the law, Barack Obama voted against the nomination of two of them and identified two of the others as judges he would not have nominated.[135] [136] [137] Of the four justices who voted to strike down the law, John McCain has identified all of them as judges he would not have nominated.[138]


* The day after the Supreme Court ruling was issued, Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced legislation that would overturn the ban on partial birth abortions.[139] [140] [141] [142] Barack Obama has stated that the "first thing" he would do as President is sign this bill into law.[143]


Constitution & Law

Roe v. Wade


* In March of 1970, a pregnant woman by the name of Norma McCorvey sued the state of Texas to challenge a state law that prohibited abortion except to save the life of the mother. McCorvey wanted to keep her identity secret and assumed the fictitious name Jane Roe. The name of the district attorney responsible for enforcing the law was Henry Wade. Thus, the case was entitled Roe v. Wade.[144] [145] [146]


* In 1973, the Supreme Court released its ruling. Seven of the judges ruled in favor of Roe and two of the judges opposed the ruling. The ruling overturned the laws of 30 states that prohibited abortion except to save the life of the mother.[147]



* The majority created rules regarding the types of abortion legislation that states could enact based upon the three trimesters of a typical pregnancy:


- First trimester: States cannot prohibit abortions. They can require that abortions be done by licensed physicians, but other than this, they cannot regulate the manner in which they are performed.[148]


- Second trimester: States cannot prohibit abortions. They can regulate the manner in which they are performed for the purpose of protecting the mother's health.[149]


- Third trimester: States can prohibit abortions after "viability" (meaning the point where a preborn human is capable of living outside their mother's womb), but cannot prohibit abortions "where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother." [150] The ruling cites examples of what may be considered harmful to a woman's health. These include the "stigma of unwed motherhood," the work of caring for a child, and the "distress" "associated with the unwanted child." [151] [152]


Doe v. Bolton


* On the same day that the Supreme Court released Roe v. Wade, it issued another ruling in a case entitled Doe v. Bolton. The same seven judges who ruled in favor of Roe also ruled in favor of Doe, and the same two judges opposed the ruling.[153] The majority wrote that this ruling and Roe v. Wade "are to be read together." [154]


* In this case, the State of Georgia had a law prohibiting abortions unless the pregnancy would "seriously and permanently" injure the health of the mother.[155] A lower court struck down this law and the majority of the Supreme Court agreed. The ruling stated that abortion laws with exceptions for the health of the mother must allow for factors such as emotional health, psychological health, familial concerns, and the woman's age.[156]


* The Georgia law also required that the doctor who would perform the abortion, two other doctors, and a committee of the medical staff at the hospital where the abortion was to be done needed to agree that the abortion was necessary to preserve the health of the mother.[157] The Supreme Court struck this requirement down, ruling that only the doctor who would perform the abortion needs to determine that the abortion was necessary to preserve the health of the mother. Any abortion provider could make this decision based solely on their "best clinical judgment." [158]


Planned Parenthood v. Casey


* In 1992, the Supreme Court decided a case entitled Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In this case, the majority reaffirmed the central element of Roe v. Wade, but did away with the "rigid trimester framework." [159]


* As in Roe v. Wade, the majority ruled that states cannot prohibit abortions prior to viability, and laws that prohibit abortion after viability must include an exception for the "health of the mother." [160] (With regard to viability, as of 2007, the youngest premature baby to survive was born at 21 weeks and 6 days gestation.[161])


* Contrary to Roe v. Wade, the majority ruled that states could enact laws that regulated abortion throughout pregnancy, as long as they did not create a substantial obstacle to obtaining an abortion. An example of what would be acceptable is a law requiring that doctors provide women with certain information before they perform abortions.[162]


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