We are very fortunate to have Ms. Heather Cale join our team of bloggers.  She is clearly an intelligent young woman who cares a lot about reproductive health issues.  And her research is not only impeccable but exhaustive.

Last week she wrote about “late term abortions” from a generally scientific point of view.  She talked about brain waves and all of that other stuff that some people really get into.  The idea, of course, is to try to determine when the fetus becomes “human” or exhibit human traits, like responding to pain.

I will be the first to admit that I glazed over a lot of the stuff that Heather wrote about because, to be honest, much of it was just way over my head.  And, I’m just not sure how relevant it all is.   This is not to criticize this well written piece but for many, many people – especially those women who have late term abortions – issues like when the cerebral cortex is developed are just irrelevant.

I’m reminded of a woman I met years ago at an abortion facility in Michigan.  At the time, I was with the National Coalition of Abortion Providers and I was touring some clinics for a few days.  Always interested in getting the real-life perspective of a women sitting in that waiting room, I asked the clinic staff if I could accompany one of the women and the woman agreed.   She was 22 weeks pregnant.

After filling out paperwork, we went into a room to get an ultrasound.  The technician rubbed her stomach with jelly, turned the machine on and suddenly you could see the fetus on the screen.  The woman’s first response was “is that my baby?”   I was flabbergasted.  Note she did not use the word “fetus.”  To her, it was a baby.  The technician said that was her baby and then started pointing out the head and other parts of the body.  The patient could not take her eyes away from the screen.  I was frozen and practically in tears, but the women never showed any emotion and just asked several questions about her baby.

Then the technician asked her if she wanted to continue to process and the woman without hesitation said she did.  As if she thought she needed to explain, she told us that she had three children already and could not possibly imagine having another one.  “I gotta think about the children I have already,” she added.  I asked her why she had waited so long and she explained that she could not get the money right away, the irony being that the cost of an abortion increases as the fetus develops.  Of course, if there was no such thing as the “Hyde Amendment,” then this woman would have been able to use her Medicaid card to get an earlier abortion.   Don’t get me started on that issue…

What was interesting to me was that this never asked if the fetus would feel pain, never asked about its cognitive functions, brain waves and all of that other scientific stuff.  In her eyes and mind, she was carrying a baby, pure and simple and she had to think of the real-world consequences of giving birth to that baby.

The science of this issue is very interesting, but that debate will never end.  Meanwhile, we just have to continue to insure that late term abortions continue to be available to women like the one I met in a Michigan abortion clinic.