What is Abortion?

What is Abortion?

Laura Fearnow
September 1, 2022
Minute Read

Abortion is a deliberate termination of a human pregnancy resulting in the death of the baby. There are two main types of abortion that are legally practiced in the United States: chemical and surgical.

Chemical Abortion (aka Medical Abortion)

A chemical abortion can be performed up to 10 weeks gestation. The process begins with a pill called mifepristone. This medication stops the production of progesterone in the mother’s body, which is a hormone that stabilizes the lining of the uterus which provides nutrients and oxygen to the baby. Typically, after 48 hours a second pill is taken called misoprostol. This medication causes the uterus to contract and expel the baby. This process is generally done at home without medical supervision. Severe pain, cramping, and bleeding occur for days and sometimes weeks. Some women need to be hospitalized and need surgery to remove the remains of the baby. It is important to note that this type of abortion can be stopped shortly after taking the first pill. A progesterone shot can prevent the demise of the baby if administered within a certain timeframe.

Surgical Abortion

Dilation and Curettage

Dilation and Curettage can be performed between 5-13 weeks gestation. This is the most commonly performed abortion. Medication is first given to dilate the cervix, then a suction catheter is inserted. The pressure of the suction catheter is 20 times greater than a household vacuum. The baby is quickly and forcibly torn apart due to the fragility of its bones, and it is suctioned out of the uterus. This is very risky because it is a blind procedure and parts of the babies are often left inside. Intestines, bladder and blood vessels can be damaged.

Dilation and Evacuation

This type of abortion is typically performed between 13- 24-weeks gestation. Medication is first given to dilate the cervix. Then a suction catheter is inserted and the amniotic fluid is emptied from the womb. After that, forceps are inserted and the baby’s limbs are forcibly removed one by one. The skull is generally too large to fit through the birth canal, so forceps are inserted and the skull is crushed. Once all of the pieces of the baby have been accounted for, the procedure is complete. Risks can include perforation of the uterus and damage to the uterus. Massive hemorrhaging and sepsis are not rare complications. Future pregnancies are at greater risk of miscarriage due to inducing premature labor.

Third Trimester Induced Abortion

This type of abortion is performed at 25 weeks gestation up until birth. Since the baby is so large, this procedure generally takes 3-4 days to complete. On the first day, digoxin is injected into the baby’s head, abdomen, or heart. At 25 weeks gestation, it has been scientifically proven that the baby can fully feel pain. This drug ends the life of the baby. Then sterilized seaweed, called laminaria, is inserted into the cervix. It absorbs liquid and expands, dilating the cervix and preparing it for the baby’s exit. This usually takes 2-3 days in which the mother carries the dead baby. On the second day, the laminaria is replaced and an ultrasound is done to verify the death of the baby. If the child is still alive, another lethal dose of digoxin is administered. Then the woman is sent home to wait for labor to start. If the mother cannot make it back to the clinic, she is advised to deliver the dead baby on the toilet, otherwise, she will deliver at the abortion clinic. In some instances, and D&E is required to remove parts of the baby. Late-term abortions have a high risk of uterine perforation, damage to the cervix, and hemorrhaging. Other risks include maternal death and complications for future pregnancies.

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