The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 283.
House Bill 283 would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks except to protect the life or physical health of the mother. The Church holds firmly to the position that life begins at conception, and should be protected from that early moment throughout a pregnancy. But while many disagree on this point, few have taken notice that within the medical community, and the general public, a growing consensus has emerged around drawing the line for performing an elective abortion at 20 weeks. This is based not upon a framework of choice, but rather within the framework of all those motivated to protect and support life.
Roe v. Wade is anchored in the (incorrect) premise that at the early stages of pregnancy, the woman’s right to be rid of an unwanted pregnancy outweighs the rights of the child in the womb. But the Supreme Court has said that later in the pregnancy, the state has a compelling interest in protecting the life of the child in utero. The baby’s rights are equal to the mother’s rights.
I can give no better example than my own experience at Anne Arundel Hospital ER last week. As I was admitted twice for flu and pneumonia, every single medical professional asked me what week I was in pregnancy. When I replied “almost 22 weeks” each acted the same way. They picked up the phone, called the OBGYN on call, explained I was “beyond 20 weeks” and asked the OBGYN be present and approve all of my treatments to ensure that the medications would also be safe for the child. My 22 week old fetus had suddenly become “a someone” with his or her own doctor.
The medical community has made the decision that they will intervene at 20 weeks on behalf of the child to ensure the child’s health and welfare. Regardless of their opinion on abortion in general, it is clear that the medical community recognizes at this point in the pregnancy that the child is a separate individual worthy of its own protection. 20 weeks is when they will stop contractions and determine medical treatment based on the child. It is the point in gestation where everyone can recognize that there is no denying the life of the child, a fact reflected in their medical decisions.
The humanity of the unborn child at this stage of pregnancy is clear, to the medical community, to the world at large and especially to the child’s mother. Our state’s laws should at a minimum acknowledge this widespread recognition of the life of a child at 20 weeks, and put into place humane, legitimate means to protect that life.
Pope Francis has urged us, “Let’s say “Yes” to life and “No” to death.” We urge you to do the same and find a favorable report on HB 283.