After Mike Pence’s speech at the RNC yesterday evening, an NBC News fact-checker got to work attempting to disprove the vice president’s claim that Joe Biden “supports taxpayer funding of abortion right up to the moment of birth.” (As David Harsanyi noticed last night, NBC was not the only outlet bungling the facts on Biden and abortion.)
“Biden supports abortion rights,” fact-checker Jane C. Timm concedes, before employing both a falsehood and a misdirection in her effort to correct Pence.
“Elective abortions do not occur ‘up until the moment of birth,’” Timm writes. “Just 1.2 percent occur after 21 weeks of gestation, according to the latest data.”
But Timm’s second claim does not negate the first; the number of abortions that take place after 21 weeks’ gestation has nothing to do with whether abortion until birth is legal (it is), whether it takes place (it does), or, most pertinently, whether Biden favors placing restrictions of any kind on abortion, which he does not.
This statistic about the occurrence of abortion after 21 weeks’ gestation — the time around which many premature infants are able to survive outside the womb with intensive medical care — is typically cited by those who wish to deny or minimize the reality of post-viability abortion.
While research from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute does estimate that about 1.3 percent of annual abortions in the U.S. occur after 20 weeks’ gestation, Guttmacher also estimates that there are around 926,000 abortions in the U.S. each year. Far from being uncommon, about 12,000 abortions in the U.S. take place after fetal viability each year, most of them elective. As my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru has pointed out, that means there are more post-viability abortions annually than there are gun homicides, according to FBI estimates.
Meanwhile, Timm’s attempt to disprove Pence’s claim with equivocations about the rarity of late-term abortion offers little clarity about whether Pence was correct. Timm concedes that Biden does “support government funding being used for abortions,” but she offers this concluding point, more defense than fact-check: “Biden says he changed his mind on the issue because the amendment made it harder for lower income and women of color to access abortions.”
But Biden’s reasons for supporting taxpayer-funded abortion are irrelevant to whether Pence’s statement was factually accurate. Biden does, as Pence and Timm both acknowledge, oppose federal conscience measures that protect taxpayers from funding elective abortion. Regardless of Timm’s maneuvering to make late-term abortion appear rarer than it is, Biden has continually espoused his support for Roe v. Wade, which along with Doe v. Bolton allows women to legally obtain abortions through all nine months of pregnancy. During the campaign, Biden has failed to articulate a single abortion restriction that he supports, which, in conjunction with his opposition to the Hyde amendment, makes him a supporter of taxpayer-funded abortion on demand until birth, just as Pence argued.