What is Abortion?
Abortion is the intentional killing of an unborn child. How the child’s life is taken depends upon the stage of pregnancy at the time of the abortion. Some abortion methods are surgical in nature; others chemical.
View pictures of aborted babies.
The various abortion methods are listed below.
Surgical, First Trimester: Suction Aspiration
Suction aspiration, or "vacuum curettage," is the abortion technique used most often for first trimester abortions.1 The woman is usually given a local anesthetic or general anesthesia before the procedure is begun. A powerful suction tube with a sharp cutting edge is inserted into the womb through the dilated cervix. The suction dismembers the body of the developing baby and tears the placenta from the wall of the uterus, sucking blood, amniotic fluid, placental tissue, and fetal parts2 into a collection bottle.3 Infection can easily develop if any fetal or placental tissue is left behind in the uterus. This is the most frequent post-abortion complication.4
Surgical, First Trimester: Dilatation* and Curettage (D&C)
* Note: Sometimes the term "dilation" rather than "dilatation" is used.
In this technique, the cervix is dilated or stretched to permit the insertion of a loop-shaped steel knife. The body of the baby is cut into pieces and removed and the placenta is scraped off the uterine wall.5 Blood loss from D & C, is greater than for suction aspiration, as is the likelihood of uterine perforation and infections.6 This method should not be confused with routine D&C's done for reasons other than undesired pregnancy (to treat abnormal uterine bleeding, dysmenorrhea, etc.).7 D&C's are routinely performed after a miscarriage.
Chemical, First Trimester: RU 486
On Thursday, September 28, 2000, the Food and Drug Administration approved RU-486, [also known as mifepristone]a dangerous chemical abortion drug that causes women to have abortions early in pregnancy. To ensure the abortion pill is "used accurately and safely", the FDA mandated that women be given special brochures called ''MedGuides'' explaining who is eligible for a drug-induced abortion and what dangerous side effects toexpect, and that they must make three trips to the abortion facility to undergo the abortion. The RU 486 chemical abortion procedure requires the administration of two potent and dangerous drugs, since RU-486 alone may not cause a complete abortion. A second drug, a prostaglandin, is used to ensure that the abortion is more likely to be successful. In cases where both chemicals fail to give a complete abortion, a surgical procedure may be needed.
RU 486 and its companion drug are administered between the fifth and ninth weeks of pregnancy, after pregnancy has been confirmed. An RU 486/Prostaglandin-induced abortion usually involves three trips to a doctor. About half of the women abort while at the doctor’s office. An additional 26% abort within the next 20 hours – in the shopping mall, grocery store or in their homes, for example. The remainder abort sometime in the next few weeks or not at all.
A woman who doesn’t abort is advised to have a surgical abortion because the RU 486/Prostaglandin chemicals may have injured the unborn child.
RU 486, a steroid, starves the small developing unborn child to death by making the uterus a hostile environment where the nutrient lining of the womb sloughs off. The secondary drug, artificial prostaglandins, either Cytotec or Misoprostol, causes muscular contractions to expel the dead baby. Prolonged excessive bleeding, severe cramps, and diarrhea are some of the common side effects of the RU 486 procedure.
Dr. Donna Harrison, an American obstetrician-gynecologist, a member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) and current Chairman of the Board of Directors of Americans for Life, in an article on the Concerned Women for America website, had this to say about RU-486: “Since 2001, five North American women (four U.S., one Canadian) have died from septic shock after taking RU-486. In each case the infection was caused by a bacterial species, Clostridium sordellii, an anaerobe found rarely in the vaginal flora. In women of childbearing age, lethal infections caused by C. sordellii were rare prior to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) approval of RU 486. Why are these deaths occurring?
Two scientists have independently offered similar analyses. Normally the body’s innate immune system destroys bacteria before they are able to multiply and secrete toxins into the bloodstream. However, RU-486’s potent ability to block receptors for cortisol, a key signaling chemical in the immune system, causes it to malfunction. In some cases, septic shock results…..
“As is the custom of the FDA, the agency is taking these deaths quite seriously. It updated the RU-486 labeling in November 2004 to include ‘new information on the risk of serious bacterial infections, sepsis, and bleeding and death that may occur following any termination of pregnancy, including use of Mifeprex.’ ”
Dr. Harrison goes on to say that RU 486’s dangers do not end with infections. She indicates that women with ectopic pregnancies run the risk of bleeding to death because the FDA does not currently require ultrasound to determine if a pregnancy is uterine or ectopic. “…At least 80 women required emergency transfusions, with over half experiencing life-threatening hemorrhages requiring large amounts of blood. Several required the replacement of their entire blood volume. All would have died had they not received timely access to medical and surgical services.”
In Wisconsin, there were 1,248 (15%) chemically induced abortions (any non-surgical procedure including oral, injected and vaginally inserted chemicals) in 2007. [Reported Induced Terminations of Pregnancy in Wisconsin, 2007]
Chemical, First Trimester: Methotrexate
The procedure with methotrexate is similar to the one using RU 486, though administered by an intramuscular injection instead of a pill.8 Originally designed to attack fast growing cells such as cancers by neutralizing the B vitamin folic acid necessary for cell division, methotrexate apparently attacks the fast growing cells of the trophoblast as well, the tissue surrounding the embryo that eventually gives rise to the placenta. The trophoblast not only functions as the "life support system" for the developing child, 9drawing oxygen and nutrients from the mother's blood supply and disposing of carbon dioxide and waste products, 10 but also produces the hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone which signals the corpus luteum to continue the production of progesterone necessary to prevent breakdown of the uterine lining and loss of the pregnancy.11 Methotrexate initiates the disintegration of the nutrients and oxygen of the forming placenta and makes the uterus a hostile environment to the growing baby. The baby dies. Methotrexate is a highly toxic drug and must be closely monitored. During normal use, blood tests must be routinely done to prevent possible death or injury to the user. Three to seven days after the methotrexate is given (depending on the protocol used), a suppository of misoprostol (the same prostaglandin used with RU 486) is inserted into the woman's vagina to trigger expulsion of the tiny body of the child from the woman's uterus.
Surgical, Second Trimester: Dilatation* and Evacuation (D&E)
* The term "dilation" is sometimes used instead of "dilatation." Used to abort unborn children as old as 24 weeks, this method is similar to the D&C. The difference is that forceps with sharp metal jaws are used to grasp parts of the developing baby, which are then twisted and torn away. This continues until the child's entire body is removed from the womb. Because the baby's skull has often hardened to bone by this time, the skull must sometimes be compressed or crushed to facilitate removal. If not carefully removed, sharp edges of the bones may cause cervical laceration. Bleeding from the procedure may be profuse. 12 Dr. Warren Hern, a Boulder, Colorado abortionist who has performed a number of D&E abortions, says they can be particularly troubling to clinic staff and worries that this may have an effect on the quality of care a woman receives. Hern also finds them traumatic for doctors too, saying "there is no possibility of denial of an act of destruction by the operator. It is before one's eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current." 13
Chemical, Second and Third Trimesters: Instillation Method Salt Poisoning
These methods involve the injection of drugs or chemicals through the abdomen or cervix into the amniotic sac to cause the death of the child and his or her expulsion from the uterus. Several drugs have been tried, 14 but most commonly used is a saline solution. This technique is used after 16 weeks of pregnancy, when enough fluid has accumulated in the amniotic sac surrounding the baby. A needle is inserted through the mother's abdomen and 50-250 ml (as much as a cup) of amniotic fluid is withdrawn and replaced with a solution of concentrated salt. 15 The baby breathes in, swallowing the salt, and is poisoned. 16 The chemical solution also causes painful burning and deterioration of the baby's skin.17
Prostaglandins are naturally produced chemical compounds which normally assist in the birthing process. The injections of concentrations of artificial prostaglandins prematurely into the amniotic sac induces violent labor and the birth of a child usually too young to survive. Often salt or another toxin is first injected to ensure that the baby will be delivered dead, 18 since some babies have survived the trauma of a prostaglandin birth and been born alive. 19 This method is used during the second trimester. 20 In addition to risks of retained placenta, cervical trauma, infection, hemorrhage,21 hyperthermia, bronchoconstriction, tachycardia, 22 more serious side effects and complications from the use of artificial prostaglandins, including cardiac arrest and rupture of the uterus, can be unpredictable and very severe. Death is not unheard of.23
Surgical, Second and Third Trimester: Partial-Birth Abortion
Abortionists sometimes refer to these or similar types of abortions using obscure, clinical-sounding euphemisms such as "Dilation and Extraction" (D&X), or "intact D&E" (IDE) which mask the realities of how the abortions are actually performed.24 This procedure is used to abort women who are 20 to 32 weeks pregnant—or even later into pregnancy. (Many babies born at 23 weeks (gestational age) or more survive.25 Partial-birth abortion eliminates that possibility. Guided by ultrasound, the abortionist reaches into the uterus, grabs the unborn baby's leg with forceps, and pulls the baby into the birth canal, except for the head, which is deliberately kept just inside the womb. (At this point in a partial-birth abortion, the baby is alive.) Then the abortionist jams scissors into the back of the baby's skull and spreads the tips of the scissors apart to enlarge the wound. After removing the scissors, a suction catheter is inserted into the skull and the baby's brains are sucked out. The collapsed head is then removed from the uterus. 26 Partial-birth abortion is a particularly gruesome procedure. Partial-birth abortion is now prohibited in the United States under federal law.
Surgical, Second and Third Trimester: Hysterotomy
Similar to the Caesarean Section, this method is generally used if chemical methods such as salt poisoning or prostaglandins fail. Incisions are made in the abdomen and uterus and the baby, placenta, and amniotic sac are removed.27 Babies are sometimes born alive during this procedure, raising questions as to how and when these infants are killed and by whom.
What About Babies Who Are Born Alive After an Abortion Procedure?
It is difficult to identify the exact number of babies who survive after an abortion, but there are several documented cases.
The most well-known case is that of Gianna Jessen, whose birthmother tried to abort Gianna in her third trimester with a saline abortion. Gianna survived and is now a nationally-known speaker.
Other cases of babies being born alive after an abortion procedure have been documented by Jill Stanek, RN, formerly a nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois. In 1999, she discovered and reported that babies born alive after an abortion procedure were being shelved in a soiled linen utility room to die. She was subsequently fired August 31, 2001 for publicly reporting her findings.
Ron Strom, on the WorldNet Daily website, reported on April 25, 2005 that a Florida mother delivered an infant boy, born alive in an abortion clinic bathroom, where her cries for help went unheeded by abortion clinic staff.
The London Sunday Times published an article on November 30, 2005, by Lois Rogers, which cited an investigation into doctors’ reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched abortions by National Health Services doctors. The number of babies was bumped up to 66 when the Alive and Kicking [a coalition of various groups in Great Britain, formed to protect life in the United Kingdom] website reported the following: “
2.1.1 The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health report into perinatal mortality stated that in 2005, 66 babies were born alive after abortion but subsequently died.( The majority of these live births after abortion, 50, occurred before 22 weeks gestation and the remaining sixteen were at 22 weeks’ gestation or later.
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1. Phillip G. Stubblefield, First and Second Trimester Abortion, in Gynecologic and Obstetric Surgery, ed. David H. Nichols (Baltimore: Mosby, 1993) p. 1016. Also, the U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Abortion Surveillance: Preliminary Data—United States, 1991, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 43, No. 3, 1994, p. 43, puts the percentage of suction curettage abortions relative to other techniques at 98%, though the CDC admits that their numbers include a number of D & E abortions which should be classified otherwise (personal communication with Lisa Koonin,Division of Reproductive Health, CDC, March 6, 1996).
2. U.S. Senate Report of the Committee on the Judiciary, Human Life Federalism Amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 3, 98th Congress, lst Session, legislative day June 6,1983, p. 36. (Hereafter referred to as Human Life Federalism Amendment).
3. A. Jefferson Penfield, M.D., Gynecologic Surgery Under Local Anesthesia (Baltimore: Urban & Schwarzenburg, 1986), p. 79.
4. Jane E. Hodgson, M.D., Abortion by vacuum aspiration, Abortion and Sterilization: Medical and social aspects, Jane E. Hodgson, ed. (New York: Academic Press, Grune and Strathon, 1981, pp. 260-261.
5. Human Life Federalism Amendment, cited in note 2, p. 36.
6. F. Gary Cunningham, M.D., et al, Williams Obstetrics, 19th ed. (Norwalk, CT: Appleton & Lang, 1993), p.683.
7. Cited in note 2, p. 79.
8. Richard U. Hausknecht, M.D., Methotrexate and Misoprostol to Terminate Early Pregnancy, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 33, No. 9 (August 31, 1995), p.538, and Eric A Schaff, M.D., et al, Combined Methotrexate and Misoprostol for Early Induced Abortion, Archives of Family Medicine, Vol. 4. 1995, p. 2.
9. Daniel R. Mishell, Jr, M.D., and Val Davajan, M.D., Infertility, Contraception, & Reproductive Endocrinology, 2nd Ed. (Oradell, NJ: Medical Economics Books, 1986), p.20.
10. Keith Moore, Ph.D., Essentials of Human Embryology (Philadelphia: B.C. Decker, Inc., 1988), p.10.
11. Mishell and Davajan, cited in note 9, p. 20.
12. Warren M. Hern, M.D., Abortion Practice (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1984) pp. 153-154. See also Human Life Federalism Amendment, cited in note 2, p. 36.
13. Warren M. Hern, M.D., and Billie Corrigan, R.N., What About us? Staff Reactions to the D & E Procedure 'paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Planned Parenthood Physicians, San Diego, California, October 26, 1978.
14. Nelson B. Isada, MD., et al, mention potassium chloride and digoxin in Fetal Intracardiac Potassium Chloride Injection to Avoid the Hopeless Resuscitation of an Abnormal Abortus: 1. Clinical Issues ' Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 80, No. 2 (August 1992), pp.296, 298, (though they administered this directly into the baby’s heart, rather than just the surrounding amniotic sac), and Marc A. Bygdeman mentions, but does not discuss in detail, the use of hypertonic glucose in Prostaglandin Procedures Second Trimester Abortion, ed. Gary S. Berger, et al (Boston: Martinus Nijh off Publishers, 1981), p. 101. Oxytocin, normally used to stimulate contractions in full term pregnancies, can apparently also be used as an abortifacient in mid-trimester pregnancies, if used in high enough doses, according to Stubblefield First and Second Trimester Abortion..., cited in note 9, p. 1027.
15. Thomas D. Kerenyi, Hypertonic Saline Instillation in Second Trimester Abortion, cited above, p. 81.
16. R.S. Galen, R Chauhan, H. Wietzner, et al, Fetal pathology and mechanism of fetal death in saline-induced abortion: a study of 143 gestations and critical review of the literature, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 120 (1974), p.347.
17. Jeff Lyon, Abortion paradox: A live baby, York Daily Record (York, Pennsylvania), August 21, 1982. See also Congressional record, March 23, 1983, H1680.
18. Nancy K. Rhodes, The New Neonatal Dilemma: Live Births from late Abortions, The Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 72 (1984), p. 1458.
19. Liz Jeffries and Rick Edmonds, Abortion, The Dreaded Complication, The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2, 1981, 4 page insert.
20. Warren M. Hern, M.D., Abortion Practice, cited in note 12, pp. 123, 125.
21. Ibid., p. 125.
22. James R. Scott, Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology, 6th ed. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1990) p. 726.
23. Willard Cates, M.D. and H.V.E. Jordaan, Sudden Collapse and Death of Women Obtaining Abortion Induced by Prostaglandin F2 Alpha, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 133 (February 15, 1979), pp. 398-400. See also David Grimes, M.D., et al., Midtrimester abortion by intra-amniotic prostaglandin F2a: Safer Than Saline? Obstet Gynecol cervical rupture following prostaglandin-induced midtrimester abortion, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Vol. 115(1973), p. 1107.
24. Some have also used the highly descriptive term brain suction abortion to refer to the procedure.
25. See Maureen Hack, et al, Very Low Birth Weight Outcomes of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Network, Pediatrics, Vol. 87, No. 5 (May 1991), p. 58
26. Dr. Martin Haskell described the partial-birth abortion procedure, which he called dilation and extraction, at a Sept. 1992 meeting of the National Abortion Federation, a trade association of abortion providers. He said he had done 700 of these procedures. See Martin Haskell M.D., Dilation and Extraction for Late Second Trimester Abortion, in Second Trimester Abortion: From Every Angle, Fall Risk Management Seminar, September 13-14, 1992, Dallas, Texas, National Abortion Federation. See also Diane Gianelli, Shock-tactic ads target late-term abortion procedure, American Medical News (July 5, 1993), pp. 3, 15-16.
27. Human Life Federalism Amendment, cited in note 2, p. 37.