In September of 2019, then-Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg did a town hall with Chris Wallace on Fox News. In the Town Hall, Chris Wallace asked Mayor Pete to clarify his stance on late-term abortion — otherwise known as abortion that is performed in the final trimester of pregnancy.
Mayor Pete’s response, which might have been overlooked by the press in September of last year, has now, over a year later, gone viral after people on Twitter brought the comments back up again as an incredibly empathetic way to view abortion that happens that late in the pregnancy. It’s also the type of message that matters greatly to parents, who have gone through pregnancy either successfully or unsuccessfully, and know what it means to have to terminate a pregnancy late in the term.
Moderator Chris Wallace asked Mayor Pete what he thought of a New York State law that allowed people who are pregnant to abort their pregnancies who are in the third trimester to protect their health. “Do you believe, at any point in pregnancy … that there should be any limit on a woman’s right to have an abortion?” Wallace asks.
“I think the dialogue has gotten so caught up on where you draw the line, that we’ve gotten away from the fundamental question of, who gets to draw the line? I trust women to draw the line,” he says.
“Just to be clear,” Chris Wallace responds, “you’re saying you’d be okay with a woman well into the third trimester deciding to abort her pregnancy?”
Buttigieg then says that these hypothetical questions are usually posed to elicit a strong emotional reaction from anti-choice people, and Wallace states that it’s not a hypothetical, given that 6,000 women go through third-trimester abortions every year.
“That’s right,” Buttigieg says, “representing less than 1% of pregnancies,” he adds. “Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a woman in that situation. If it’s that late in your pregnancy, that means almost by definition, you’ve been expecting to carry it to term. We’re talking about women who have perhaps chosen a name, who have purchased a crib. Families that then get the most devastating medical news of their lifetime. Something about the health or life of the mother that forces them to make an impossible, unthinkable choice… As horrible as that choice is, that woman, that family, may seek spiritual guidance, they may seek medical guidance, but that decision is not going to be made any better, medically or morally, because the government is dictating how that decision should be made,” Buttigieg said.
The response was a welcome, and truly empathetic, view of late-term abortions that are often completely disregarded in the national discourse when discussing the lives of pregnant women. In fact, the majority of people who get abortions are already parents to at least one, but often more, children. The vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester. When abortions do take place later on in the pregnancy, like most abortion decisions, these choices are made in the context of family planning; in the context of considering the health of the future baby or the life of the person carrying that baby. These choices occur in the context of families. The more choices a family has, the better the outcome for that family will be — either financially, medically, or as a combination of both choices.
Of course, for those who believe that abortion is always murder, and are hard-line about that, the reality about how these choices are made, or that they are sometimes done to save the life of the person carrying the pregnancy to term, will not sway them. Pete Buttigieg’s comments in September of 2019 are a welcome reminder that those choices that must be made, that are deeply personal and are sometimes done under extremely high stakes, will not be helped by legislation that aims to limit the ability of parents to make those choices.
1 in 4 women will have an abortion before they turn 45. Abortion is a health care option. For some families, it’s an option they never wanted to take in the first place. But to paint it as anything but — to paint it as wanton women waiting until they’re seven months pregnant to terminate a pregnancy because they just don’t feel like having a baby anymore — is not just disingenuous. It’s also dangerous. Mayor Pete’s comments on the issue reflect the reality of what it means to terminate a pregnancy.