When it comes to public perception, politics, and media narratives, later abortion care is one of the most sensationalized topics of abortion access.
You’ve probably heard some of the anti-abortion talking points that have wormed their way into mainstream conversations around abortion rights. And when an extremist talking point makes its way into mainstream media coverage or legal systems, it shapes public opinion and heightens abortion stigma. In this blog, we’re addressing those talking points and dismantling stigma around later abortion care.
What is a later abortion?
Later abortions are a type of abortion care that occurs later in pregnancy, typically at or after 21 weeks.
Of over 1,500 abortion providers in the U.S., only 124 perform abortions after 21 weeks, and just 63 perform abortions after 24 weeks. Most later abortion providers are concentrated in coastal states.
Later abortions typically require treatment over multiple days, so patients must find accommodation while receiving treatment. Later care is the most expensive type of abortion care, with procedure costs typically ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, and sometimes exceeding $20,000.
Is later abortion care ethical?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about later abortion care; however, much of the general public’s understanding of pregnancy and abortion was shaped by court arguments during Roe v. Wade in the early 1970s. Specifically, Roe generated the concepts of trimesters and viability in order to regulate abortion rights. This is why BAF uses the broad term "later abortions" more often than “third-trimester abortions.”
In medical practice, viability is not a set gestational age of a pregnancy – it’s a combination of factors, including fetal weight, fetal sex, and available medical interventions, as well as gestation. As such, providers of abortion care and their patients are better suited than legislators and courts to determine when having an abortion is an option.
You might've heard people refer to later abortions as "late-term abortions" or even "partial-birth abortions." BAF does not use these terms because they were created by anti-abortion extremists whose agenda and language is designed to control our bodies. The ideas that later abortions are equivalent to birthing at term or are happening “up until the moment of birth” are widespread Republican and anti-abortion talking points. These sensationalized ideas are not based in medical knowledge or practice — they’re attempts at fear-mongering to decrease public support of abortion care.
Why do people have later abortions?
BAF trusts our clients to know when having an abortion is the right decision for them. To respect clients’ privacy, we do not ask them why they are seeking abortion care. We only ask what support they need in order to get their abortion.
Media coverage and policy debates often point to health endangerment and fetal abnormalities as the typical reasons for later abortions, but what's usually left out of the narrative is that later abortions can happen because of life circumstances, too.
The loss of a job, financial hardships, an abusive partner, and denial of care due to abortion restrictions are just a few reasons that a patient may need an abortion later in pregnancy. We don’t know everyone’s reason for seeking abortion care, but we trust our clients to exercise their right to bodily autonomy without having to justify their abortion to us.
Are later abortions common?
Currently, later abortions make up about 1% of abortions in the United States each year. The remaining 99% of abortions occur earlier in pregnancy.
Compared with abortions earlier in pregnancy, later abortions are relatively uncommon; however, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, many state governments moved to ban abortion outright or place gestational limits on abortion care. With decreasing access to abortions in the South and Midwest, we’ve seen an increase in patients traveling to Maryland for later abortion care.
When patients are unable to access abortion care in their home state, they may travel to another state for care. Traveling for an abortion requires time and money. With 49% of abortion patients living below the federal poverty level, saving up for abortion care takes time — especially when patients are forced to travel out of state for an abortion. But the longer it takes a patient to save money for abortion care and related travel, lodging, and childcare expenses, the longer their pregnancy will continue, and the more expensive abortion care will become.
How can I support people seeking later abortions?
Thanks for asking!
Like we mentioned earlier, later abortion care is expensive — costing anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 or more, excluding travel, lodging, and childcare — and about 21% of our callers in 2022 have needed a later abortion.
Following BAF's social media for time-sensitive funding requests is one way to support patients. You can also sustain our work with a monthly donation, which helps us budget more consistently for the future of abortion funding.
When we learn about abortion from the people providing care, we get a much clearer and more accurate picture of why access to later abortions is so vital. So aside from donating, tuning into conversations about abortion care and then talking about abortion in conversations with your own circles is one way to help others unlearn the myths about later abortions that have been perpetuated by anti-abortionists for decades.
At the Baltimore Abortion Fund, we talk about abortion because abortion stigma helps legitimize bans and restrictions on reproductive care. Speaking of Abortion, is a blog series in which we talk about the nuances of abortion care, rights, and access.
When we talk openly about abortion care for what it is — a type of everyday healthcare that many people receive — we break down the social taboos that reinforce the "politics" around abortion access.
Help fight abortion stigma.
Talk about abortion with us.