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While virtually all abortion providers outside of Texas offer their services to women in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, there is a steep drop after this point. About half of clinics do not offer abortion by week 15, the limit set by Mississippi. By week 24, less than 10 percent of clinics are doing this. (The big exception is Texas, where providers were recently barred from offering an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy – although this law is unlikely to be valid for long.)

Why have so many providers restricted access to abortion in a way that roughly matches the sensitivity of most Americans? And why have they continued to do so even in the face of decades of pressure from other pro-choicers to offer abortion on demand and without excuses? In part because the suppliers share the moral intuitions of the Americans. As extensive research shows, providers generally do not like to perform abortions at some point in the second trimester, when the fetus becomes more easily human.

A good example is Dr Susan Wicklund, a heroine of the abortion rights movement. Faced with death threats, she drew attention for going to work with a loaded gun handy. Less noted was his decision to limit his practice to first trimester abortions. Recalling his decision, Dr Wicklund, who is now retired, wrote: “To see an arm pulled through the vaginal canal was shocking. One of the nurses in the room escorted me when the color left my face. She continued, “From that point on, I chose to limit my abortion practice to the first trimester: 14 weeks or less.”

In his willingness to deal with deadly enemies of abortion but not second trimester abortions, Dr Wicklund embodies our conflicting urges.

Anti-abortion groups have been less inclined to make such compromises, as Dr Wicklund knows all too well. But that could change if Roe is scaled back to protect a narrower range of abortions and our legal regime shifts to a compromise like Dr Wicklund’s – a compromise that grants broad access to first trimester abortion but largely restricts it. on the second and third. Despite the recent Texas abortion law drama, I suspect that in post-Roe America, the same moral intuitions that have long moderated abortion providers could possibly also temper opponents of abortion.

Since the pro-life movement merged, its most important mobilization tool has been the images of second and third trimester abortions. They have emboldened countless activists, giving them the assurance that they are waging a war for basic human rights. Such images have been plentiful in the movement because Roe has created legal space for a minority of late abortion specialists, some of whom have been a thorn in the side of the pro-choice movement. Without such clinics and the images that leak out of them, it may be more difficult for pro-life leaders to sustain the moral passions of their movement – as well as the fiction that most aborted fetuses look like new ones. -born.

This conclusion arose from experience. Leaders of the movement have struggled to rally their base against “partial birth” abortion, but have struggled to mobilize against embryonic stem cell research. Like their pro-choice counterparts, pro-life activists simply cannot have many feelings for embryos that are unrecognizable as humans. And as any activist knows, it is emotions, not just principles, that move movements.

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