In Wake of AP Poll, Pro-Life Advocates Discuss How to Communicate the Humanity of the Unborn From Conception

The poll reported strong opposition by most Americans to abortions in the second and third trimesters.

Pro-life activists participate in the 48th annual March for Life outside the U.S. Supreme Court January 29, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Pro-life activists participate in the 48th annual March for Life outside the U.S. Supreme Court January 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. (photo: Alex Wong / Getty)

WASHINGTON — As the Supreme Court prepares to consider a law out of Mississippi that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, an Associated Press poll found that a majority, 65% percent, of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the second trimester, past 12 weeks, in all or most cases. 

In the wake of the poll’s findings, pro-life advocates and former abortion business workers told the Register their observations of abortion in the first and second trimesters, and how they thought the pro-life movement could build on the opposition to abortion after 12 weeks in order to change the way Americans viewed abortion earlier in pregnancy.

This belief that abortion should be restricted to the first trimester of pregnancy has been prevalent for decades. Gallup polling dating back to 1996 has consistently found that while roughly two-thirds of Americans support abortion in the first trimester, that number drops to around 25% in the second trimester and just 12% in the third trimester. The vast majority of abortions, 92%, take place in the first trimester of pregnancy while around 6% take place in the second trimester and fewer than 1% occur past 21 weeks. 

Dr. Christina Francis, a board-certified OB/GYN and chairwoman of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), told the Register that she believes people are comfortable with abortion in the first but not the second trimester due to “not fully understanding that from the moment of fertilization — and we know this, it’s a scientific fact, more than 95% of human biologists and embryologists agree — a new, distinct, and whole human being comes into existence and that human being at the moment of fertilization has everything that he or she needs to become the more developed human being that he or she will eventually become.” 

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said in a statement to the Register that “the pro-life movement has made immense progress educating Americans on the humanity of the unborn child, but there is still more work to do. While the March for Life is delighted that an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose late-term abortion, we strive ardently for the day when life at every stage — from conception to natural death — is valued and protected.” 


‘This Is a Baby Now’

Francis said the pro-life movement needs to continue to challenge people about what makes them “uneasy” about second trimester abortion. 

“A lot of people would probably say, ‘Well, that baby can feel pain or that baby looks more like a baby,’” she said. “If we can get them to acknowledge what it is that makes you feel uneasy about a second trimester abortion and then help point out to them the fact that those things that make you feel uneasy either are there and present in the first trimester as well, or ask are those really differences that are significant enough to justify the taking of one life and not the taking of another.” 

Noemi Padilla, a nurse and pro-life advocate who was formerly the interim director of the Tampa Women’s Health Center abortion facility, told the Register that the women who would come in for abortions had “urgency” to get the abortion done in the first trimester. 

“There’s something that triggers inside of the woman mentally and emotionally once they get into the second trimester,” she said. “I’ve given sonograms to moms that came in and thought that they were eight weeks pregnant” and discovered they were 15 weeks pregnant at which point they would tell her, “‘No, this is a baby now.’”

“At the facility that I worked at, we specialized in second trimester procedures so we did have a huge population that went ahead and they knew, and they were okay with it,” Padilla said. “The reasons for those second trimester procedures, they varied. Some of them would wear a little bit on my heart because you’re hearing the circumstances of the woman and you feel for them and because we were very limited we weren’t allowed to give any resources other than to sell the abortion.” 

“We couldn’t say, ‘Oh here if you have four children already and you’re not working, here’s a food pantry service maybe you can get rent assistance,’” Padilla said. “If we could do some of that follow through, I’m sure that we would have been able to save a lot more babies but that’s not what we were in the business of doing in the clinic.” 


Violent Procedure

Regarding these second trimester abortion procedures, Padilla said people needed “to understand the violence that takes place, the dismemberment, the staff is literally breaking apart your baby. That is never okay and it’s dehumanizing this poor little infant to the extent that, during the procedure they dismember the arms, the legs, and then once everything else is removed, the staff has to then go back and piece everything together. It is just throwing this life to the side.”

Padilla observed these procedures at the facility where she worked for four years. A turning point for her was when an older woman came in to the center “in error” for a sonogram as they were right next to a women’s health center.

“She wanted to just make sure that her pregnancy was okay that her baby was okay. We went ahead and did the sonogram,” she said. “In the clinic we weren’t allowed to use the word ‘baby.’ We weren’t allowed to do any bonding with the family. We never even showed them the sonogram so this sonogram that I was doing was really out of the norm because this was a wanted pregnancy.” 

“I started to bond with the baby and the family and her husband and her mom,” she said, as they continued to come into the facility to check on the baby. A hospital informed the mother that she would need an abortion due to a fetal anomaly, but Padilla said, “something was telling me get the medical records and I went to the doctor and I said ‘this procedure is coming in, but I would like to get medical records’ and the owner said absolutely not, we’re doing this today, and I didn’t fight hard enough for her.”

“It was a three-day procedure, by this time she was in her second trimester, and she asked that I be there every step of the way with her which I was and it was heartbreaking it was almost like I was having the procedure done,” she said. “A few days after the procedure we got medical records and there wasn’t anything wrong with the baby at all. That pretty much sent me into this abyss. I was already in the abyss, it put me deeper into the abyss and then shortly after that I quit.” 


The Importance of Sonograms

Priscilla Hurley, a pro-life advocate with And Then There Were None and the Abortion Survivors Network, has been deeply affected by abortion. Her mother attempted to abort her illegally in Mexico and she was later coerced by her parents into getting an abortion at the age of 19. 

She also worked at an abortion business for a few years. Hurley told the Register that the women she saw in the clinic were “fearful” and are “told that it’s no big deal, that it’s pain free and that it’ll be an easy experience. They’re encouraged that it will solve a problem, but it generally doesn’t have the outcome that so many people desire because it’s a traumatic experience at any stage in the pregnancy, but especially when they’re further along.”

“When you experience the vacuum aspiration procedure, which is the most commonly done in the first trimester,” she said, “it’s just that they don’t have to work so hard, the vacuum does it.” 

She described her own abortion at age 19 as a “blur” but also a “horrific experience.” Hurley said she went into her work at the facility “wanting to comfort women because of the horrific experience I had,” but she didn’t realize her trauma stemmed from the abortion itself. Working in the industry, she said, “my eyes have seen a lot of little baby feet and hands and baby parts in the abortion clinic. They don’t look like anything but human baby parts.” 

“That’s why sonograms are so important with many pregnancy centers around the country because they believe that if the woman sees the little head and the tummy and the arms and legs at an eight-week sonogram or a nine-week sonogram then they will not want to end that baby’s life because they’ll see that it’s a baby,” she said. “Back when I was involved in it, they didn’t have sonogram technology back then so it was so much easier for Planned Parenthood to promote their agenda and build their industry and build their propaganda campaign around why this was such an easy and a good idea.”

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at West Allis Central High School on July 23 in West Allis, Wisconsin.

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