This Is Why We Need 20-Week Abortion

by Jo Yurcaba

On Tuesday morning, the Senate will vote on H.R. 36, a bill that would ban all abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization or later with extremely limited exceptions. The bill has already been passed by the Republican-controlled House, though many are predicting that it won't get through the more moderate Senate. But, when you take a step back and try to use your super cool human emotions — especially one called empathy — it's pretty clear that even the attempt to pass such a bill is pretty damn horrifying. On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood released a video of one woman's 20-week abortion story to show exactly why banning 20-week abortions would be completely heartless. (Update: On Tuesday, Senate Democrats blocked the bill.)

Planned Parenthood's video shows April Salazar, who said that she just celebrated her seventh wedding anniversary with her husband. Early into their marriage, Salazar said the two knew they wanted to have children. "For me, having a child with him just felt like it would be an extension of how we felt about each other," Salazar said in the video. Then, after a year and a half of trying to get pregnant, Salazar sought help from a fertilization specialist. After months of help, she almost said she almost gave up hope, according to the video:

By the eighth try, I was really convinced that I was gonna get another negative on the pregnancy test, and I got a phone call from the nurse at the fertility clinic and she said, "I have some news for you." And I expected that she was gonna say "no" again. And she said, "You're pregnant."

At 12 weeks, Salazar found out that she was pregnant with a boy. Then, at 18 weeks, she saw a specialist for an anatomy scan. A doctor told Salazar and her husband that her son had a "skeletal dysplasia, which meant that his chest was very narrow and his rib cage was very narrow, and so narrow that his lungs wouldn't be able to develop," according to the video. The doctor told her that her son would never be able to breathe on his own:

If I carried the pregnancy to term without any medical intervention, he would suffocate probably within a few minutes. With the extreme medical intervention including a ventilator and a feeding tube, he might live several days.

Two weeks later, Salazar had a second anatomy scan done and the doctor confirmed the diagnosis. Salazar and her husband decided to terminate the pregnancy even though she said she never thought she would be someone who had an abortion, according to the video:

If I had been forced to carry my pregnancy to term, my life would be very different right now. I can't imagine having given birth and watching my son suffer. I can't imagine holding him and watching him take his last breath, and knowing that that would be painful for him.

Now, Salazar has a daughter, who she said should be able "to live in a world in which she can make her own reproductive choices," according to the video. To Salazar, having control over reproductive health means "that you can control your destiny, and that's so important for me."

Had a ban like the one the Senate is voting on been in place when Salazar was pregnant, she would have been forced to carry her son to term and watch him take his last, painful breaths in her arms. These are the kinds of circumstances that make 20-week abortion bans completely horrific and illegal. Abortion — up to any period of fertilization — is completely legal. The Supreme Court has previously said that only doctors should determine when a fetus is viable or when it can feel pain, and Salazar's case shows just why that part of the puzzle shouldn't be handed over to Congressional representatives — most of whom are not doctors. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a statement Monday that this move is a "show vote" by conservatives to look more conservative in light of Pope Francis' visit, according to the Daily Mail:

It's a pretense to prove their extreme conservative credentials. This is all just political theater. And it comes at the expense of American women's health.

A 20-week abortion ban, specifically, would mostly hurt women like Salazar, since 99 percent of abortions take place before 20 weeks of fertilization, according to Planned Parenthood. If Congress really wanted to lower the number of later-term abortions, then representatives should increase access to early abortion in states across the country. If Congress wanted to truly back up its claims that it cares about women and children, then it should pass measures that actually help single mothers and low-income families — not restrict them from making decisions that will help their well being and the well being of their future children.