A new study on fetal survival rates underscores the highly individual nature of reproductive health decisions and the importance of entrusting these decisions to those most affected by them, writes Center for Reproductive Rights president and CEO Nancy Northup in a powerful op-ed this week in Time magazine.
According to the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a small minority of premature infants born as early as 22 weeks can survive with extreme medical intervention. The study has provoked debate around whether these advances will affect the constitutional standard of viability and women’s control over their reproductive choices.
“There are no easy answers,” says Northup, citing a range of reproductive decisions women regularly encounter—including abortion, fertility treatments and surrogacy, health risks during childbirth, and aggressive medical interventions for preemies. She writes:
In all of these decisions, no matter which path is chosen, there is the possibility of human suffering. Which path to take will heavily depend on matters of personal belief and family circumstances. In the end of the day, it is the promise of our Constitution that individuals are in the best position to make these decisions.
In its long history of abortion rights decisions, the Supreme Court has rejected defining viability by a fixed gestational age and has repeatedly affirmed that personal decision-making about ending a pregnancy is integral to our right to privacy and liberty.