How Extreme Are We?

It’s time for Brown students to see how far left-of-center they stand.

In November of last year, the Brown Daily Herald released a poll summarizing Brown students’ abortion views. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of students were pro-choice — 81.2 percent, to be exact. What does raise eyebrows is the extreme devotion to abortion rights that Brown students proclaim — the plurality of students, 42.1 percent, support abortion even in the third trimester.

This number is alarming for a number of reasons. It is an overwhelmingly unpopular position among the general public, few legislatures support it, and it encroaches into questionable bioethical territory.

The abortion debate is one of the most divisive topics in America. Unlike gay marriage, support for and against abortion has remained relatively split over the past few decades with no real generational divide. In fact, according to Gallup, Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are less supportive of abortion than those between the ages of 30 and 49. Despite being a hard-fought cultural war of attrition, both sides do have some common ground: Third-trimester abortions should be illegal.

According to a 2011 Gallup poll, the two sides were in agreement when it came to third-trimester abortions: 79 percent of pro-choice and 94 percent of pro-life supporters felt that third-trimester abortions should be illegal.

When the overwhelming majority of pro-choice¬ Americans feel that these late abortions should be illegal, Brown students stand in stark contrast with their peers. Over 40 percent of Brunonians are so radically pro-choice that 79 percent of all pro-choice supporters disagree with them.

A premature birth, sustained in an incubator

Not only do the vast majority of Americans find the typical Brown student’s views to be extreme, but no country in the western world supports third-trimester abortions. Even in the most liberal of European nations, abortion term limits are restrictive. Germany doesn’t allow abortions after 12 weeks, Sweden limits anything after 18 weeks, Spain only allows them up until 22 weeks, and even the most lenient country, the United Kingdom, has its boundaries — 24 weeks.

If a woman is looking to have a legal abortion past 24 weeks, she might seek asylum in China, where there are no term limits to abortion, although many feminists might cringe at the fact that this would permit more sex-selective abortions. Chinese families, burdened with the one-child policy, are wont to abort female fetuses. One might call this the actual “war on women.”

Beyond China, why are governments so universal in their unwillingness to allow third-trimester abortions? Because as science progresses, we know more and more about the development of the fetus.

The third trimester begins at week 27 of pregnancy. By this time, the baby already has a sense of motion and can feel its mother dancing. Its taste buds are already two weeks old. It just began practicing breathing. At 28 weeks the baby probably just experienced its first dream. She has eyelashes. And yes, she’s been able to feel pain for over eight weeks.

By 28 weeks, just the one week into the third trimester, a premature baby has a 90 percent chance of survival. That means that without the help of her mother, she has a nine in 10 chance of growing up into an adult just like you or me. But she doesn’t even need to be 28 weeks old to have that chance.

As modern medicine improves, so does the chance of premature survival. In 2008, 21-week-old Amillia Taylor was born in Florida, a full six weeks before the third trimester. She survived and is now 4 years old. It happened again, two years later, in Germany, when 21-week-old Frieda Mangold survived without any health complications.

According to 41.2 percent of Brown students, Amillia and Frieda never had a right to survive when they were born, nor do the other 90 percent of surviving babies born after 28 weeks. If Brown students want to fight against the wanton disregard to human freedom and the right to life, they should begin with the man in the mirror.


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About the author

Ryan Fleming '13 is the Editor Emeritus of the Brown Spectator. He is a Mechanical Engineering major from Southern Maryland.

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