Abortion Context: 6 Weeks Pregnant – Not What It Sounds Like

I’m going to be publishing a series of context pieces over the next couple of weeks to put the consequences of these bills into focus aside from the keyword talking points.

PSA: If you’re a journalist writing about current abortion legislation? Spend 5 minutes on the phone with a fertility clinic to find out what the actual gestational timelines are. I’ve seen several articles from major publications in the last few days which explicitly mis-state timelines in the bills.

This is a hot-button issue for me, because so-called “heartbeat” legislation gives the average woman *two weeks* to make a decision about an unplanned pregnancy that will effect her health, her financial and educational prospects, etc : Essentially, the rest of her life.

That’s approximately the time it takes to get most medical offices to even give you a basic appointment if you don’t have a local walk-in clinic. Not 6 weeks, 2.

Weeks of pregnancy are calculated from date of last menstrual period, not insemination/fertilization/etc.

Your body doesn’t produce enough HCG(b) to test positive for pregnancy until at least 14 days after insemination – that’s how long most fertility clinics will make you wait before they’ll run a blood test to see if you’re pregnant (because home tests may not register yet, if your HCG(b) levels are on the lower side of normal).  2 weeks after that, a transvaginal (TV) ultrasound will generally pick up a heartbeat (and yes, that procedure is exactly as uncomfortable as it sounds).

It’s also before the point at which most miscarriages occur (per people I know in the reproductive medicine field, that average number is more like 30%+ than the 10% articles like to reference, because articles are citing clinically/lab-confirmed miscarriages, and many OB offices won’t see you until you’re 10wks).  The majority of spontaneous miscarriages occur between 6-12wks pregnant.

Oh, but wait! That’s also before you can have any genetic testing done related to the pregnancy (for things like, hey, Tay-Sachs!), because there isn’t enough of the baby’s DNA in the mother’s bloodstream yet.  The earliest genetic screening is performed at 11-13 weeks of pregnancy, with supplemental testing after that as needed.  The only exception is a screening test on the mother/ partner to find out if he or she is a carrier for various identified mutations.

A routine anatomical ultrasound, where they check for physiological development problems, isn’t ordered until 20 weeks in most US healthcare systems.

Stop and think about the moral consequences of being forced to bring a child into the world that you know will only know pain and suffering or will require a literal lifetime of intensive care, one that you won’t be around to see through.

I wouldn’t presume to make those choices for someone else, and that’s the point. It deeply disturbs me that a country that prides itself on individual rights would so aggressively work to strip away someone’s ability to make their own moral determinations.

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