Catholic Medical Association on why Coloradans should vote ‘yes’ on Proposition 115

A recent document compiled by the Denver chapter of the Catholic Medical Association examines fact-based and empirical evidence for why late term abortion is almost never necessary, and why Coloradans should support a late term abortion ban in the state.

On Nov. 3, Colorado residents will have the opportunity to save the lives of thousands of unborn babies by voting “YES” on Proposition 115, previously known as Initiative 120, which would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy through birth. Unfortunately, Colorado is one of seven states in the country that allows abortion for any reason until birth. Late term abortion is an extreme and inhumane procedure and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to end it.

Pro-choice activists often advocate that abortion is a woman’s right to freely decide what to do with her own body while denying the personhood of a fetus. They often refer to an abortion as “ending a pregnancy” as if the procedure could occur without killing a vital and developing human being. Indeed, the woman does have autonomy over her own body, but she does not have autonomy over that human child inside her womb whose development begins at conception.

Abortion advocates justify the termination of a pregnancy by claiming that a fetus is not considered a human being. Studies of human development indicate that a human fetus develops the ability to taste, smell, and detect sounds, especially the voice of the mother, during the second trimester, when some women decide to “end their pregnancy.” The heart of an embryo begins to develop by the fifth week of gestation and begins to pump blood by the sixth. Brain development occurs in the seventh week. By the tenth week, the fetus has already begun to develop most major organ systems and has human characteristics. At 22 weeks of gestation, fetuses are vitally developed human beings. It is also very likely that at 22 weeks, a human fetus may experience more pain than a born baby or an adult. Under Initiative 120, thousands of unborn babies will have the opportunity to live just like every human being deserves.

Though there is often the impression that late abortions only happen in extreme cases due to a medical condition of the mother or fetal abnormalities, the reality is that many times there is no reason. In Colorado, there are clinics that announce elective abortions for any reason up to 26 weeks, and then for “medical advice” up until 36 weeks, when the baby is only a couple weeks away from birth. When a mother’s life is at risk after 22 weeks of gestation, a C-section delivery is medically considered the least risky and safest option for the mother. There are several late term abortion procedures, including Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) abortion, which involves mechanical destruction and dismemberment of the fetus. If Proposition 115 is passed, the lives of thousands of babies that get killed during late term abortions would be saved.

Physical and emotional health side effects for women who go through an abortion can be significant and vary from woman to woman. Medical studies suggest that late term abortions can cause long-term consequences that vary from serious infections to medical conditions that may require surgical intervention.

Psychologically, the damage can be even greater and irreparable. The psychological consequences of an abortion can affect a woman in different ways, ranging from depression to self-destructive behaviors. The more advanced the pregnancy is when the procedure is done, the psychological consequences can be more serious. This is something that can be minimized if Colorado voters pass Proposition 115 on Nov. 3.

Despite the fact that abortion is never the best option, it is inevitable that some women may feel the need to abort when chromosomal or structural abnormalities are discovered in the fetus or when the fetus is conceived in rape. Late abortion restrictions will not affect these cases.

Many times, women may feel that abortion is their only option due to feeling lonely with no support from family or friends. However, in Colorado there are numerous organizations that provide both financial and emotional support for pregnant women and mothers after giving birth. There are alternatives for both mother and baby.

If passed in the November elections, Proposition 115 would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy in the state of Colorado, with the only exception if the mother’s life is at risk. Under Initiative 120, the person performing the abortion could be subject to suspension of his or her medical license and a fine, but would not face prison time. The woman receiving the abortion would not be penalized.

Passing Proposition 115 would not only save the thousands of unborn babies, but would help prevent psychological and health problems that many women suffer after going through this painful and terrible procedure. As Catholics, we must take action and fight for a society that defends life. On Nov. 3, vote “YES” on Proposition 115.

Proposition 115
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COMING UP: Letter: The facts about late-term abortion and initiative 120

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In their Dec. 6 editorial, the Denver Post asks Coloradans not to sign petitions currently circulating to place a late abortion ban on the 2020 ballot (Initiative 120). In their arguments, they uncritically promote the misleading narratives and myths promulgated by abortion rights extremists. Since the editorial was published, the Post has refused to publish a response from the Coalition for Women and Children (which is sponsoring the initiative). They seem uninterested in providing Coloradans with an alternative view on late abortion. As pro-life Catholics, when the mainstream media refuses to report all the facts, it is our responsibility to get the word out and persuade our neighbors to support this important effort.

The first myth is that late abortion is rare and only performed in tragic circumstances that involve either a horrible fatal fetal anomaly or cases where the health of the expectant mother is in jeopardy. They dismiss as small the percentage of abortions that are performed late. In Colorado, it is true that only 3.6 percent of abortions occur after 21 weeks gestation, but this represents 323 pre-born children based on the latest 2018 report from the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment. The reporting of the Guttmacher Institute – the abortion industry’s research arm – even suggests that that CDPHE’s figures are significantly understated.

In the past, the Post has highlighted the risk of measles deaths as well as an Uber trip ending in homicide. However, only 0.1-0.2 percent of children/adults afflicted with measles dies from their illness, and there have been no fatal cases recently in Colorado. Meanwhile, nationally only 0.0003 percent of Uber trips were complicated by critical safety issues in 2017/2018 with 107 fatalities. The same thing could be said about vaping deaths or school shooting deaths. Why is it then that the Post and abortion rights extremists try to claim that 3.6 percent of abortions is a trivial percentage and imply that hundreds of deaths constitute a “rare” occurrence and should not evoke a response in Colorado?

What about the implication that late abortions are performed for only “tragic” reasons? We know that in Colorado, the Boulder abortion clinic (which specializes in late abortions) advertises on their website for abortions through 26 weeks for any (elective) reason. In published data from their practice, 70% of abortions are performed on normal fetuses. Furthermore, reputable media outlets such as have debunked the notion that most – or even a majority – of late abortions are related to fetal anomaly. Diane Greene Foster, a prominent UCSF abortion rights activist and authority on abortion science, has stated that abortions for fetal anomaly “make up a small minority of later abortions.”

The notion that abortion is ever necessary to save the health or life of an expectant mother after 22 weeks is also misguided. The reality is that expedited delivery is safer than a multi-day late abortion procedure. Indeed, a late abortion would pose a substantially increased risk of injury or death and constitute malpractice in the case of a medical emergency.

The second myth is that killing a fetus after 22 weeks for a fatal fetal anomaly by abortion is more compassionate and results in less suffering than a natural fetal death. It is now widely accepted by international fetal experts such as Carlo Bellieni that a 20 to 22-week fetus can experience pain. Because pain inhibitory pathways develop later in fetal life, the pain may be more intense than those appreciated by infants or adults.

Late second-trimester abortions may be accomplished by dismembering the fetus and removing her appendage by appendage – referred to as a dilation and evacuation (D&E). Some late abortions are performed using a method called dilation and extraction (D&X) in which her brain is sucked out to collapse the head and facilitate delivery of the dead fetus. Most very late abortions are performed as induction abortions in which the fetus is killed by transecting the umbilical cord or injecting potassium chloride or digoxin. Labor is then induced to deliver the dead fetus.

Compared to a peaceful, loving and life-affirming natural death assisted by perinatal hospice specialists, death by dismemberment is horrific. Potassium chloride death is quicker but causes incredibly intense caustic pain when injected without anesthesia. Digoxin injection can elicit severe nausea and delirium before it results in death over a period of hours. Furthermore, a recent postmortem study of fetuses killed by injection reveals multiple injuries to the heart, lungs and abdomen. None of this is painless. Just because you can’t see the fetus experience pain and suffer as it dies in the uterus doesn’t mean it is not happening.

What about the mothers? In the tragic case of a fatal fetal anomaly, isn’t abortion a better choice for the mother’s mental health than normal delivery? Again, perinatal hospice provides loving support at the time of fetal death and bereavement services to the whole family for months. This does not happen with a late abortion procedure. In fact, a recent study suggested that abortion of a wanted pregnancy may result in worse mental health outcomes than delivery – particularly depression and suicide ideation.

Ultimately, Coloradans need to ask themselves if it makes sense that a 22-week fetus that is born enjoys all the protections of state and federal law while that same fetus in the uterus can be arbitrarily killed and forced to suffer a painful death. It is past time that Coloradans end this gross inequity and sign the petition to place a late abortion ban on the ballot in 2020. Please spread the word and don’t let abortion rights extremists dictate the terms of the debate.

Thomas J. Perille MD
Coalition for Women and Children
Catholic Medical Association