As inaccuracies and polarizing misinformation about abortion care continue to spread, it’s important that everyone from pregnant people to politicians and voters understand the truth about abortion care, how it’s performed, and the care provided to patients and families in conjunction with abortion.

Much of the misinformation related to abortion care is intended to demonize not only the procedure but also the people who provide and receive it. Abortion is health care that people seek for a variety of reasons based on their lives, health, and well-being and that clinicians provide for those same reasons. Spreading misinformation about necessary health care serves only to endanger those who need it and who provide it.

One such piece of misinformation is the idea of “abortions” being performed after delivery of a fetus. No such procedure exists. Obstetrician–gynecologists, just like physicians in any other field of medicine, are dedicated to protecting, preserving, and promoting the health of their patients. Read on for further information about abortion later in pregnancy and the value of perinatal palliative care.

What is abortion?

Abortion is a safe, evidence-based intervention that ends a pregnancy. Because abortion ends a pregnancy, it can only be performed during a pregnancy. Abortion cannot be performed after a pregnancy has ended.

The idea of abortion being performed after birth is sometimes used to stigmatize abortion care received later in pregnancy. Approximately 1% of all abortions are performed after 21 weeks; even fewer than 1% are performed in the third trimester. Abortions performed later in pregnancy are conducted for a number of reasons that are critical to protecting or improving the life and health of the pregnant person.

What is perinatal palliative care?

Perinatal palliative care encompasses a coordinated care strategy that centers on maximizing quality of life and comfort for newborns who have life-limiting conditions in early infancy. The term “life-limiting” refers to fetal conditions that are lethal or that allow for little or no prospect of long-term survival outside the uterus without severe morbidity or extremely poor quality of life. Such life-limiting conditions are incurable and include congenital malformations, chromosomal abnormalities, prematurity, and critically low birth weight. Perinatal palliative care can be provided alongside life-prolonging treatment; however, patients may choose not to pursue life-prolonging treatments because they are invasive or complex or have uncertain outcomes and are not in line with patients’ values or priorities for their families.

When providing perinatal palliative care, obstetrician–gynecologists’ chief aim is to alleviate the newborn’s suffering and honor the values of the patients involved—namely, the newborn’s parent or parents. Ultimately, the parent or parents, in consultation with their physician, decide which course of perinatal palliative care to pursue.

At no point in the course of delivering a newborn with life-limiting conditions and subsequently providing palliative care does the obstetrician–gynecologist end the life of the newborn receiving palliative care.

What is infanticide?

Infanticide is the murder of an infant. Infanticide is not abortion care, and abortion care is not infanticide. Conflating abortion care with the murder of an infant serves only to stigmatize lifesaving health care, defame doctors who provide critical treatment, attack people who are already suffering the loss of a wanted pregnancy or facing serious illness, and further a politicized agenda that aims to restrict access to health care and erode people’s rights to bodily autonomy. Such allegations endanger the lives of people seeking health care and the physicians who provide that care.

Additional Reading

Facts Are Important: Understanding and Navigating Viability
Committee Opinion 786: Perinatal Palliative Care