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Photograph of 26-week-old baby in womb.Lennart Nilsson

(LifeSiteNews) — Abortions sought for rape, incest, and “medical emergencies” account for less than five percent of abortions in the United States, according to updated statistics released on May 24 by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, providing context to some of the most common arguments invoked against state pro-life laws.

Lozier compiled and examined data covering roughly 123,000 abortions across eight states in 2021, the last full year that Roe v. Wade mandated legal abortion nationwide. It found that rape and incest accounted for just 0.4 percent, alleged “risks to a woman’s life or a major bodily function” 0.3 percent, other “physical health concerns” 2.2 percent, and “fetal abnormalities” 1.2 percent. Direct abortion is always gravely immoral and never needed nor ethically justified to save a mother’s life.

By contrast, 95.9 percent of abortions were sought for elective or otherwise-unspecified reasons. 

“This could underestimate the number of abortions performed for each of these reasons, however, because in some states a significant percentage of women declined to share a reason,” Lozier notes. “Conversely, abortions for these reasons could be overestimated, since in states that permit multiple reasons to be reported, a single abortion could have been performed for more than one of these reasons. However, in Florida, which allows only one reason for each abortion and requires an abortion provider to list a reason before the abortion report form can be submitted, abortions for reasons that correspond to common exceptions accounted for less than 3% of the total in 2021.”

The data, which is consistent with past findings from other surveys, put in perspective the abortion lobby’s effort to focus the abortion debate on the so-called “hard cases,” by stirring emotional discomfort at the thoughts of an assault survivor undergoing pregnancy or a couple delivering a baby who may die shortly after birth, or raise fears of women dying from complicated pregnancies.

Pro-lifers stress that circumstances of conception do not change the preborn baby’s innocence or humanity, and therefore society must do all it can to treat both mother and child with compassion and note the physical and psychological consequences of abortion. Pro-lifers further note that rape exceptions are often exploited by predators to destroy the living proof of their crimes and continue molesting child victims. The pro-life group Live Action has documented Planned Parenthood’s complicity in several such cases in its “Aiding Abusers” video series.

Regarding lethal “fetal abnormalities,” which are frequently misdiagnosed, pro-lifers such as Dr. William Lile, a board-certified OB/GYN and pro-life public speaker, emphasize that the humane response is not abortion but giving him or her the same “love, the concern, and the care” that any born patient would receive. “This is a key concept: the baby in the womb is a patient,” he has written.

As for the third scenario, while some emergency situations in pregnancy can necessitate treatments indirectly resulting in a child’s death, abortion is still gravely immoral and not needed nor justified to protect a mother’s life or health. Regardless, every state in the union with abortion prohibitions currently in effect also permits doctors to administer life-saving, non-abortive treatment to pregnant women even if it comes at the expense of a baby’s life. 

Pro-abortion activists have long sought to keep abortion debates focused on such situations, to divert attention from the vast majority of abortions that are sought for far less “sympathetic” reasons. They have gotten mileage out of that approach, which has helped defeat pro-lifers in recent state ballot referendums, and convinced national Republicans to take a more moderate stance on life this year. 

However, as Lozier’s data reaffirms, such extreme situations do not reflect the reality of abortion in the vast, overwhelming majority of cases.

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