Hindsight is 20-20, as the adage goes. Where abortion is concerned, that clarity of vision comes fatally late.
Florida’s 24-hour waiting period before abortion is an attempt to give women time to think before they do something that will impact them forever. Abortion is a matter of life and death – sometimes for the mother, always for her child – and giving a woman an extra 24 hours to consider the ramifications of that action should not be controversial. It just makes sense. I hope Florida’s First District Court of Appeals agrees after hearing oral arguments today.
Pro-choice advocates, and the abortionists who might sell fewer abortions if this law is enacted, are fond of saying most women are confident in their decision before they ever show up at the clinic. I have worked for 25 years with women who have had abortions, and I know that what best characterizes their frame of mind before the abortion is not “confidence” but rather “ambivalence” and “despair.” Women and girls facing an unplanned pregnancy might naturally lean toward what seems like an easy fix without first considering its implications, but by appointment day, many of them are hesitant. That’s what makes sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics so effective; women are hoping another kind of solution might present itself.
Twenty-four hours provides a sliver of time for a woman to process new information about the implications of and alternatives to the abortion procedure. Twenty-four hours provides an opportunity for a woman to find a pregnancy help center – they outnumber abortion clinics by five to one – and learn of the financial, housing and medical help available to her. Twenty-four hours gives her a chance to fall in love with her baby.
Mothers do fall in love with their babies, planned or otherwise. The highly cited Turnaway Study, designed to describe the draconian ramifications for women who are not able to abort their children for a variety of reasons, found that 5 percent of the 956 studied regretted giving birth. The remaining 95 percent, according to the study’s pro-abortion authors, “adjusted.” If these researchers and the reporters who wrote about the study were being honest, that would have been the story.
Though you will not read this in the studies published by any of the pro-abortion think tanks, mothers do mourn their aborted children. In its 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision that found a 24-hour waiting period was not an undue burden, the Supreme Court acknowledged that abortion “is an act fraught with consequences,” and I know from my work with Rachel’s Vineyard and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign that this is so. The Supreme Court found a waiting period that gives a woman a chance to make a “full and informed decision,” was preferable to having her rush to abort her child, “only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.”
Demonstrable evidence that women are not always certain of their abortion decisions can be seen in the increasing numbers of women who have taken mifepristone, the first drug in the abortion pill regimen, and then had a change of heart. By calling a hotline number – 877-558-0333 – or finding their way to AbortionPillReversal.com, hundreds of women have found doctors to begin the reversal protocol that can sometimes prevent the abortion, but only before the second drug, misoprostol, is taken.
Sara Dejulio of the Tampa-St. Petersburg area is one of those women. At five weeks pregnant in 2014, she decided — after deliberating for two weeks –that she wasn’t ready for the challenges of single parenthood. She went to a clinic in Clearwater and took mifepristone on a Saturday.
She went home with misoprostol and a broken heart. But her mother’s boyfriend found the reversal website, and soon Sara was on the phone with nurse Debbie Bradel in California. On Monday, she started the progesterone shots called for in the reversal protocol.
Sara’s daughter, Emilia, was born healthy and full-term on June 3, 2015.
“A day matters,” she said. “You really can change your mind in 24 hours.”
Sara described herself as “exhausted but with no regrets. I’ve never been happier in my life.”
Some have tried to dismiss the reversal procedure as “junk science.” Nonetheless, twenty-four hours turned out to be the difference between life and death for 155 babies born to date, and another 86 who are still in utero.
Women who opt for surgical abortions cannot change their minds. That’s why it’s crucial for Florida to join more than two dozen other states that offer this small sliver of time to give a woman a chance to fall in love with her baby, and save both their lives.
Father Frank Pavone is the national director of Priests for Life, president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council and the author of “Abolishing Abortion” (2015, Nelson Books)