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​What Trump Described in His Fear-Mongering Anti-Abortion Rant Was a C-Section

In the final presidential debate, Donald Trump described a late-term abortion as a procedure in which "you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day." His statement was both harmful to women's reproductive...
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Photo by Saul Loeb via Getty Images

In last night's final presidential debate, the candidates were asked about their views on abortion. After suggesting that he'd like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, Republican nominee Donald Trump went on to lambast the fact that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supported late-term abortion—or what he described as "rip[ping] the baby out of the womb of the mother" just days before birth.

"Now, you can say that that's OK and Hillary can say that that's OK," he told moderator Chris Wallace. "But it's not OK with me, because based on what she's saying, and based on where she's going, and where she's been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that's not acceptable."


"Well, that is not what happens in these cases," Clinton replied immediately. "Using that kind of scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate." She went on to say that making the decision to have a late-term abortion is "one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make," and that she does "not believe the government should be making it."

Read more: Famous Women in History and Their Less Famous Abortions

Trump's statements quickly garnered criticism for being inaccurate and fear-mongering. One OB/GYN tweeted, "There is no such thing as a ninth month abortion - I'm a doctor who trained in late term abortions." Jennifer Gunter, author of The Preemie Primer, elaborated on her tweet in a blog post, writing, in part, "First of all, we don't rip anything in OB/GYN. In surgery we use sharp dissection and blunt dissection, but we don't rip."

Deirdre Schifeling, executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, also weighed in. "Last night, Donald Trump made blatantly untrue statements about access to abortion," she said in a statement. "His response was not based in any kind of reality and just shows how little he knows about abortion or access to reproductive health care in this country."

Diane Horvath-Cosper is the reproductive health advocacy fellow for Physicians for Reproductive Health. She says that the terms "late-term abortion" and "partial-birth abortion" are misleading because neither refer to a medical procedure. The language is so imprecise, she tells Broadly, that there's no way to tell if people are talking about the same thing.


The procedure of removing a baby from a uterus at nine months is called a C-section

"The biggest point to remember, and I think where we start to get a lot of misunderstanding, is that women who have abortions at different points in the pregnancy have really different reasons for having them," she says. "There are a lot of really valid reasons why somebody might not need an abortion earlier in the pregnancy and might wait." For example, she explains, a pregnant woman might experience complications that threaten her life, such as high blood pressure, which can cause liver failure or a stroke. There are also fetal conditions that threaten viability that can't even be seen until 18, 20 or even 22 weeks, she says.

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Horvath-Cosper also points out that abortions later in pregnancy are rare. According to the Guttmacher Institute, most states prohibit abortion after a certain point in the pregnancy; only 1.2 percent of abortions are performed after 21 weeks.

While Horvath-Cosper says she can't comment on Trump's statements, she did stress that inflammatory comments obscure the real issue. "People have such wildly different circumstances. People aren't coming in and deciding they want to terminate a pregnancy at nine months because they just didn't get around to it. That's just not the case. All of these situations are unique. These patients and women need to be treated as individuals. Unfortunately, these sweeping statements and sweeping laws don't recognize the sometimes complicated and very complex situations people find themselves in."

For clarification, we also asked Horvath-Cosper to explain what the procedure is called when a baby is removed from a mother's womb a few days prior to its due date, per Trump's description. "The procedure of removing a baby from a uterus at nine months is called a C-section," she says. "When people say things like these inflammatory statements, using really graphic language, frightening people, trying to bank on this ick factor, it does a disservice to the real medical needs that people have."