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Friday, December 2, 2022

A Prohibition on Abortion That Leads to Unanticipated Consequences for Women of a Certain Age

When Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina proposed a countrywide ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the measure stirred uproar across the political spectrum. Graham is from South Carolina. But very few people discussed the possible effect it may have on the expanding population of women who start families in their 30s.

The proposed prohibition would include exceptions in order to save a woman’s life and for certain pregnancies that resulted from rape and incest; but, it would not make exceptions for pregnancies that were abnormal in the foetus. This is a significant omission. As a result, it would severely limit the alternatives available to the rising number of older women who are expecting babies that have been anticipated for a significant amount of time and are very much desired, but which also have a higher risk of diseases such as Down syndrome.

The United States has seen a steady growth in the median age of childbearing women over the last several decades, with that age reaching 30 in 2019, up from 27 in 1990. However, older mothers are more likely to conceive foetuses that have chromosomal abnormalities, and the test that is most commonly used to detect those disorders cannot be performed until after a pregnancy is 15 weeks along; this is beyond the proposed window for abortion that Mr. Graham has proposed.

Some anatomical defects, too, cannot be identified until later in pregnancy. It is also more possible that older moms would initiate pregnancy with a preexisting medical condition that will deteriorate as the pregnancy proceeds and may need termination in order to preserve the woman’s life or prevent her from becoming disabled.

Anne Morse, a survey statistician at the Census Bureau, found that American women of all economic, racial, and ethnic origins are having children at later ages. This is in contrast to the trend of highly educated women, who have traditionally deferred childbearing for a longer period of time. Over the past 30 years, the most significant shifts have taken place among Black mothers and women who were not born in the United States. The median age at which these groups of women give birth has increased from 24 to 28, for Black mothers, and from 27 to 32 for women who were not born in the United States.

According to Dr. Morse, “there have been significant reductions in the number of births to women in their 20s in each and every demographic category.” And every demographic group, with the exception of Native American and Alaska Native women, has experienced a rise in birthrates among women aged 35 to 39, she added.

Even among Republicans who are against abortion, Mr. Graham’s bill has been met with opposition, and a number of Republican senators have expressed to reporters that they believe the issue should be decided at the state level. However, it is not expected that the bill will pass in a Congress that is tightly controlled by Democrats.

Only a tiny fraction of abortions take happen after 15 weeks gestation: In 2019, 95.6 percent of abortions reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention occurred before the 16th week.

The majority of these uncommon treatments are carried out on younger women as well as those who get pregnant unintentionally, have poor finances, or have restricted access to medical care. However, due of the increased likelihood of foetal abnormalities beyond 15 weeks of gestation, older women who had planned their pregnancies may be more inclined to choose for an abortion at that point.

If a woman is in her early 20s, she has a chance of having a child with a chromosomal anomaly that is 1 in 500. However, that likelihood rises to 1 in 270 for a woman who is 30 years old, and it drops to 1 in 60 for a woman who is 40 years old.

According to the findings of several studies, between 67 and 85 percent of pregnant women who received a diagnosis of Down syndrome, the most prevalent form of chromosomal abnormalities, which causes a variety of physical and developmental issues, choose to undergo an abortion.

Both amniocentesis, a procedure in which amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus and tested for chromosomal abnormalities in the foetus, and the all-important mid-pregnancy ultrasound, which detects structural anomalies, can only be performed after 15 weeks and 20 weeks of gestation, respectively. During amniocentesis, amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus and tested for chromosomal abnormalities

Moreover, conditions that can make for a risky pregnancy, such as hypertension, asthma, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, are more prevalent among older women. These conditions pose more problems as pregnancies progress, straining the heart, lungs, and kidneys, as several different doctors pointed out.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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