Kayla Moore accuses Doug Jones, the Democrat running against her husband, Roy Moore, for U.S. senator from Alabama, of supporting “full-term abortion.” Jon Greenberg of PolitiFact calls this claim “false” on two grounds: The phrase Mrs. Moore used was novel, and one expert told Greenberg that abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy happen “generally” in cases where fetuses have severe abnormalities that make their survival unlikely. (While we do not have solid data on the third trimester, a study of abortions after the 20th week reports that “most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”)
Neither of these grounds justifies PolitiFact’s conclusion. With respect to Greenberg’s first point, his organization is supposed to be in the business of fact-checking, not standard-usage-checking. It’s not like anyone is having trouble getting the gist of Mrs. Moore’s comment. As for his second point, presumably she does not believe that an unborn child late in pregnancy should be aborted because the child’s prospects are poor. She is claiming that Jones supports abortion very late in pregnancy; it hardly refutes her claim to note that some people make arguments for abortion very late in pregnancy. The point is also irrelevant because Jones has not suggested that abortions should be restricted late in pregnancy to cases of severe fetal abnormality.
Jones has made two sets of comments on abortions late in pregnancy, which PolitiFact, to its limited credit, quotes. In September, he responded to a question of whether abortion should be prohibited “after 20 weeks or something like that” by saying that he was “not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose,” and that “once that baby is born” he would be an advocate for the child. The logical implication is that Jones favors legal abortion even very late in pregnancy.
Jones tried to provide a more moderate impression in subsequent remarks, saying that late-term abortions should be “permitted to protect the life or health of the mother.” (Note that he isn’t saying anything about severe fetal abnormality.) These remarks do not necessarily contradict the implication of his September comments. The Supreme Court, as the Guttmacher Institute acknowledges, has held that abortion may not be restricted at any stage of pregnancy if an abortionist deems an abortion necessary to protect a pregnant woman’s emotional health. In its clean-up remarks, the Jones campaign said the candidate supports “the current law on a woman’s freedom to choose, which has been in place for decades.” Legal abortion at any stage of pregnancy, so long as an abortionist considers it necessary for emotional health, is part of the current law that has been in place for decades.
Greenberg also writes, “At its roots, abortion law sorts out the moral rules during the time when the baby depends on the mother for survival. The idea of full-term abortion lies beyond that window of time. By definition, at full-term a baby without significant anomalies is able to survive outside the womb.” This is word salad, and it tells us nothing about either the content of Jones’s views or the accuracy of Mrs. Moore’s characterization of them.
Kayla Moore says that Jones supports abortions very late in pregnancy. The available evidence tends to confirm that claim. She may well be wrong about a great many things, but this, sadly, does not appear to be one of them.