No-Cost and Confidential Women's Center

What is Abortion?

According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, abortion is:  “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus”

There are two general categories of abortion.  Our focus will be on induced abortions rather than spontaneous abortions, however it is good to know the difference between the two.

Spontaneous Abortion:

This is known to most people as a miscarriage. The pregnant woman does not choose to end her pregnancy but something has gone wrong and she has a miscarriage or a spontaneous abortion. This is often a time of mourning and loss for a woman.

Induced Abortion:

Induced abortion is also known as an elective abortion. This is what most people think of when they hear the word abortion.  With an induced abortion, the woman chooses to end her pregnancy and the life her unborn child with a medical procedure.  This can be a very difficult choice for a woman to make and may leave her with emotional healing to complete as well as physical healing.  No woman hopes to one day end the life of her unborn child.  Pressures and fears often lead her to feel there is no other option available.

Types of Induced Abortion:

The types of induced abortion often depend on how far along a woman is into her pregnancy. The two basic methods are either medical or surgical.

Medication Abortion:

During the first nine weeks of pregnancy a woman can be prescribed the abortion pill RU-486 (a combination of two medications).  First the woman will take mifepristone which blocks an important pregnancy hormone called progesterone.  Mifepristone causes the lining in a woman’s uterus (containing the implanted embryo) to lose its blood supply and separate from the wall of the uterus.   The woman then takes a different medication called misoprostol (or cytotec) which stimulates very intense uterine contractions to expel the contents of the uterus.

Surgical Abortion:

Surgical abortions can be performed throughout pregnancy all the way through the third trimester in places where late term abortions are legal.  The type of surgical abortion will depend on how far into the pregnancy the woman is.

Up to 12 weeks: During the first trimester a suction or vacuum aspirator is used to remove the developing embryo from the uterus. Suction aspiration is the most common first trimester technique.

12-15 weeks: The procedure changes to a procedure called dilation and curettage.  The embryo has grown to become a fetus.  The bones have begun to calcify and harden so the suction aspirator cannot do the job any more.  A dilation and curettage (D&C) uses a loop shaped knife that scrapes the lining, placenta and fetus away from the uterine wall.

After 15 weeks: With more growth of the fetus, the procedure changes again to something called a dilation and evacuation.  This is the most common technique during the second trimester.  The cervix must be opened wider using dilators called laminaria (inserted into the cervix and then expands with moisture slowly enlarging the cervix) to allow for the entry of forceps into the uterus. The forceps are a surgical instrument used to grab and pull out body parts and tissue.  Intravenous sedation or general anesthesia may be required.

Late Term: The late term procedure is called a dilation and extraction.  Because the baby is so large the woman’s cervix must be dilated over a period of one to three days using laminaria. The baby is usually often injected with a lethal chemical and the woman is then induced, goes through labor, and delivers the dead baby.  Late term abortion is very uncommon and illegal in some places. The babies, if born alive, would be old enough to survive outside the womb. This is a problem for the abortion provider because laws require them to try to save the life of an infant born alive.  To avoid this dilemma the abortion provider attempts to end the life of the unborn baby prior to the delivery.  This can be done a few different ways.

Saline abortion: During a saline abortion, the doctor injects sterile salt water (saline) into the amniotic fluid that the baby is floating in burning the baby’s lungs, eyes, mouth and skin and usually killing the baby prior to birth.  Sometimes the baby is still born alive and there have been a few cases where the child has grown to adulthood.  See Gianna Jessen, a prolife advocate who was born during a saline abortion.  Saline abortion is dangerous to the mom if the saline gets into her blood stream and is not used very often because of the risk to mom.

Lethal injection: Another technique to kill the unborn baby prior to birth is to inject the baby with a lethal chemical which stops the heart prior to birth.  This is currently the most common method.

Partial birth abortion: One other abortion procedure is currently banned in the United States.  Partial Birth Abortion is a procedure similar to other late term abortion techniques except the baby is not killed before the labor induction.  The baby is partially delivered so that the head is out.  The head is then crushed prior to delivering the rest of the infant.  This is to try to avoid complications for the mom with saline or chemical injections and also to prevent the baby from being born alive.

What Role Does True Care Play?

Women who consider abortion as an option need to know (1) if they truly are pregnant (2) how far along they are and (3) what type of procedure they would go through if they choose abortion.  Having that educational information given to them allows them to be more informed about what will happen to them and their unborn babies and therefore, make a more informed and educated choice whether to abort or carry their child to term. True Care provides a trained advocate and a registered nurse to educate a woman on all of her pregnancy options (abortion, adoption, and parenting) and resources available.  She receives information about risks, side effects, and what to expect after an abortion.  True Care patients receive a pregnancy test, STD testing, and a confirmation ultrasound all at no charge so they can have the information they need to make an informed choice.  Abortion is a procedure that should not be taken lightly – Women must be educated and informed about the various procedures so they can make an informed choice.

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