Media Memo: Accuracy in Reporting About Abortion Later in Pregnancy
For Immediate Release: Oct. 17, 2022
As sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion, continues to be a primary concern for voters and, in turn, for candidates and campaigns, we’d like to bring to your attention abortion stigma, bias and, at times, medically unsound and dangerous misinformation around so-called “late-term abortion” that we continue to see referenced in media coverage.
We strive to ensure abortion and sexual and reproductive health care is discussed using language that is medically accurate and free from bias. We also appreciate that your job is to report the news, and that you make difficult decisions every day about what warrants coverage and about how you cover what candidates say and do.
It is important to remember that abortion is a medical procedure, no matter when in a pregnancy it is performed. As such, medically sound language, not politically charged messaging, should be used when discussing abortion. Every person and every pregnancy is different. Politicians are not medical experts and comments made about pregnancy and abortion should be scrutinized for medical accuracy.
We urge you to continue to cover the critical issue of sexual and reproductive health care in New Hampshire and to ask tough questions in the spirit of uncovering the truth and of holding candidates accountable for their own words and actions.
We understand you may feel pressure to “both sides” this issue, which can leave real people and their experiences out of the story. We want to ensure you have the knowledge and tools to decide when campaign talking points morph into medical disinformation.
- “Late-term abortion” is not medical terminology. It is a made-up political term and should not be used in reporting to describe abortions that occur later in pregnancy.
- A pregnancy is “full term” from 39-40 weeks, and “late term” at 41 weeks. Those are medical terms used by doctors. But anti-abortion rights activists use “late-term abortion” to describe abortions that happen at 15 or 20 weeks, or even earlier - deliberately equating an abortion halfway through pregnancy with a pregnancy ready for delivery to scare people, spread misinformation, and shame pregnant people.
- Most voters do not know or understand when abortions occur. In your reporting, it is important that you provide the context of who is seeking abortion care and when. Otherwise, research has shown people will draw their own inaccurate conclusions.
- The vast majority of abortions occur during the first trimester, which is through the 12th week of gestation. Abortions at or after 21 weeks are uncommon and represent 1% of all abortions in the U.S.
- Individuals seek abortion later in pregnancy due to medical concerns such as fetal anomalies or maternal life endangerment, as well as barriers to care that cause delays in obtaining an abortion. To help reduce stigma and misinformation about abortion, patients have bravely shared their experiences of needing access to abortion later in pregnancy. We encourage you to learn more:
- As a reminder, PPNNE health centers in New Hampshire do not provide abortion care later in pregnancy (the gestational limitations depend on location). This care happens in a hospital setting.
Research suggests that abortions take place later in pregnancy because of two factors, often working in combination [Kimport]:
- New Information: People learn new information later in their pregnancy that they couldn’t have known before. Examples might include recognizing a pregnancy later, learning about a fetal or maternal health issue, or a disruptive life event like loss of a partner.
- Barriers that Delay Care: Systemic social and economic inequities create financial and logistical barriers to care. People traveling from states with abortion bans face significant financial and logistical barriers to accessing the care when they want and are forced to delay.
- Regardless of the circumstance, people seeking abortion are clear in their decision. Their reasons are their own and we urge you to center people and their stories when covering this topic.
- Restrictions applied to abortions later in pregnancy also impact how clinicians can care for and treat miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
New Hampshire’s 24-Week Abortion Ban:
- New Hampshire’s abortion ban is extreme for many reasons. It has no exceptions for rape or incest; and it has a very narrow exception for maternal physical health. When it was signed into law by Governor Sununu, it required ultrasounds prior to all abortion care - at every stage of pregnancy - and did not include an exception for fatal fetal diagnoses.
- Additionally, this abortion ban criminalizes health care providers with a class B felony which could come with up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $100,000, allows husbands to file civil actions, and allows the patient’s parents to file civil actions.
- There are no other medical procedures in New Hampshire law subject to felony charges and imprisonment for health care professionals.
- Nearly 200 New Hampshire medical providers opposed this bill during the legislative process.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) is the largest provider of reproductive and sexual health care across the State of New Hampshire. We serve New Hampshire residents through 5 health centers in Derry, Exeter, Keene, Manchester and White River Junction, VT. Last year we saw more than 10,000 patients at these sites. PPNNE was named a 2021 Guardian of Excellence Award® winner by Press Ganey, the national leader in health care consumer and workforce engagement. Press Ganey recognizes PPNNE as a top-performing health care organization, achieving the 95th percentile or above for performance in patient experience, out of more than 20,000 medical practices.
Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund (PPNHAF) is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in New Hampshire. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.