Donald Trump made a very specific attack on Hillary Clinton’s position on abortion at the final presidential debate, arguing that the Democratic candidate was “saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb.”
It’s a mischaracterization of Clinton’s position, it’s a mischaracterization about what abortion looks like in the United States, and it’s a mischaracterization of how obstetricians treat late-term patients.
Here’s Trump accusation:
I think it's terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.
Now, you can say that that's okay, and Hillary can say that that's okay, but it's not okay with me. Because based on what she's saying and based on where she's going and where she's been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day. And that's not acceptable.
This is pretty horrific imagery. But it’s not the reality of abortion in America. When American women seek abortion services, it’s vastly more commonly early in their pregnancy.
The federal government estimates that 91.4 percent of abortions in the United States are performed in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. An estimated 1.3 percent of abortions happen later than 21 weeks into pregnancy. And none are happening on “the final day” of pregnancy. As one abortion provider trained in late-term abortion tweeted:
There is no such thing as a ninth month abortion - I'm a doctor who trained in late term abortions #debate2016— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) October 20, 2016
As Gunter went on to explain in her tweets, sometimes obstetricians will induce labor at 36 weeks due to anencephaly (when a major portion of the brain is missing and the baby cannot survive). But that is not an abortion. It is induced labor to deliver a baby that will not live.
If you rip a baby out of the mother’s womb at three days before it was due, that is a C-section. If you intentionally harm and kill the child, that is infanticide. It is not abortion — and it is not what Clinton has ever supported.