HomeoldMultiple “fact checks” by media outlets have late-term abortions all wrong

Multiple “fact checks” by media outlets have late-term abortions all wrong

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Editor’s note. This story appears in the November issue of National Right to Life News. Please share with your pro-life family and friends.

A number of media outlets have conducted fact-checks on the topic of late-term abortions and abortions up until the point of birth. These fact-checks have concluded that either late-term abortions and abortions up until the point of birth do not exist or, if they do exist, they only occur in circumstances where there is a fatal or “devastating” fetal diagnosis.

These claims are demonstrably false.

Myth #1: Late-term Abortions Don’t Happen

The incidence of abortions performed late in pregnancy is not uniformly reported across the United States, and the total number of such abortions remains uncertain. The available data on late-term abortions is derived from public statements made by abortionists, including the number of such procedures they have performed and the reasons for which they were performed.

A small number of abortionists in the United States perform late abortions. One such practitioner, Warren Hern of Colorado, was recently profiled in The Atlantic (May 2023).

He specializes in abortions late in pregnancy—the rarest, and most controversial, form of abortion. This means that Hern ends the pregnancies of women who are 22, 25, even 30 weeks along.

In the Atlantic interview, it is observed that Hern is reluctant to acknowledge any limit or red line. He extends the argument for women’s autonomy to its logical conclusion.

In an August interview with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, NBC’s Dasha Burns challenged the governor’s assertion that Democrats want to legalize abortion up to birth. The following is a transcript of the exchange between the two parties.

DeSantis: I would not allow what a lot of the left wants to do, which is to override pro-life protections throughout the country all the way up really until the moment of birth in some instances, which I think is infanticide.

Burns: Well, actually, I gotta push back on that because that’s a misrepresentation of what’s happening. I mean 1.3 percent of abortions happen at 21 weeks or higher, and there’s no evidence of Democrats pushing for abortions up until—

DeSantis: Their view is . . . that all the way up into that, that there should not be any legal protections.

Burns said that at least 1.3% of abortions in the US are on babies over 21 weeks old. John McCormack of National Review explains:

Burns pointed to the fact that 1.3 percent of abortions happen at 21 weeks or later, but 1.3 percent of 930,000 total abortions still equals 12,000 unique human beings killed each year at 21 weeks or later, when babies are capable of feeling pain and sometimes capable of surviving outside of the womb. There are fewer than 12,000 total gun homicides in the United States each year. Burns, in an attempt to minimize the horror of late-term abortion, actually ended up agreeing that late-term abortions do in fact happen in the United States. 

Myth #2. Late-Term Abortions Are Only Performed in Cases Where There is a Fatal Fetal Diagnosis

Warren Hern has also admitted to performing sex-selection abortions. He acknowledges that at least half or more of the women who have abortions in his facility are not there because of a devastating prenatal diagnosis, as is often claimed by pro-abortion advocates.
According to The Atlantic, “Hern, though, believes that the viability of a fetus is determined not by gestational age but by a woman’s willingness to carry it.”

In 1993, the AMNews, the official publication of the American Medical Association, reported the existence of two additional late-term abortionists.

Dr. Haskell said he performs abortions “up until about 25 weeks” gestation most of them elective. Dr. McMahon does abortions through all 40 weeks of pregnancy, but said he won’t do an elective procedure after 26 weeks. About 80% of those he does after 21 weeks are nonelective, he said.

Nevertheless, following an interview with the late Dr. James McMahon, Karen Tumulty published an article in the Los Angeles Times Magazine on January 7, 1990, in which she wrote:

If there is any other single factor that inflates the number of late abortions, it is youth. Often, teenagers do not recognize the first signs of pregnancy. Just as frequently, they put off telling anyone as long as they can.

Myth #3: Late-Term Abortions Are Only Performed in Cases Where the Mother’s Life is in Danger

The Atlantic offers a detailed account of the preparatory process for the procedure Warren Hern employs, which can span three or four days.

Hern stopped performing first-trimester abortions a few years ago; he saw too much need for later abortions, and his clinic couldn’t do it all. The procedure he uses takes three or four days and goes like this: After performing an ultrasound, he will use a thin needle to inject a medicine called digoxin through the patient’s abdomen to stop the fetus’s heart. This is called “inducing fetal demise.” Then Hern will insert one or more laminarias—a sterile, brownish rod of seaweed—into the patient’s cervix to start the dilation process.

When the cervix is sufficiently dilated after another day or two of adding and removing laminarias, Hern will drain the amniotic fluid, give the patient misoprostol, and remove the fetus. Sometimes, the fetus will be whole, intact. Other times, Hern must remove it in parts. If the patient asks, a nurse will wrap the fetus in a blanket to hold, or present a set of handprints or footprints for the patient to take home.

In the case of a true life-threatening emergency, however, a pregnant woman cannot afford to wait three or four days for life-saving medical treatment. An emergency caesarean section can be performed in less than 30 minutes, yet this fact does not align with the pro-abortion narrative that late-term abortions are only performed in the most extreme circumstances or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Those who are pro-abortion are aware that abortions take place at late gestational ages, yet they are also aware that the general public is opposed to such procedures. The total number of abortions performed after 21 weeks is not publicly disclosed by abortion facilities or abortionists like Warren Hern, who are presented as anomalous cases. Nevertheless, it is evident that late-term abortions do occur, for a variety of reasons, and are often performed on healthy babies and healthy mothers.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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