Republicans are pushing to ban abortions as early as 15 weeks while Democrats focus on loosening restrictions. Mona Chalabi illustrates the facts
The debate about abortion in the US seems to be taking place on shifting ground. Republicans have recently made efforts to ban abortions as early as 15 weeks in Mississippi or six weeks in Missouri and Georgia (six weeks is so early that bans would effectively outlaw abortion altogether).
Meanwhile, Democrats in New York have focused on loosening restrictions on late-term abortions.
Late-term abortions are particularly controversial. Especially when the inflammatory language deployed by the Donald Trump in his State of the Union address claims that Democrats want to make legislative changes would allow a baby to be ripped from the mothers womb moments from birth.
But late-term abortions are also very rare. In 2015, more than 400,000 abortions took place in the US. Of those, just 5,597 (or 1.3%) happened on or after 21 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The vast majority (91%) of abortions take place at or before 13 weeks of pregnancy.
Women sometimes choose to have a late-term abortion because the pregnancy poses a threat to their health or there are fetal medical conditions. But some women also have late-term abortions simply because they were unable to access one earlier due to difficulty in getting a referral or insurance problems. Studies have found this is particularly true for poorer women.
Looking through the CDCs numbers, its also apparent that the agency does not refer to abortions after 21 weeks as late-term. A full-term pregnancy lasts much longer: typically 39-40 weeks. The graphic above attempts to show when abortions occur while also placing them in the broader context of how long a pregnancy lasts. Many thanks to the reader who suggested the imagery of a train.
For more on late-term abortion, read this article in the New Yorker by Jia Tolentino and also this Medium article by Jessica Valenti.
This is a column that illustrates numbers from the news each week. Have feedback or ideas for future columns? Write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org