WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ABORTION PROCEDURES
When you find yourself pregnant,
many questions may be running through your head.
What will the father think?
What will my parents think?
How can I raise a child?
Will I be looked down on for getting pregnant?
How can I afford a child?
What can I do now?
The worries and concerns can seem overwhelming. You probably don’t like the idea of abortion, yet the thought of avoiding all consequences may make you seriously consider getting one.
Abortion may seem like an easy way to end what some will likely refer to as “the problem” of your pregnancy. Before you make up your mind, read through this information to understand more about the procedures used for abortion.
Methods of Induced Abortion
There are many different methods used, depending on the abortionist and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Each method has the same results, but the risks and the methods are very different.
79.6% of surgical abortions are performed by a method known as Curettage. Abortions caused by the administering of drugs are called Medical Abortions and are also common for babies that are younger than nine weeks old. Intrauterine abortions are very rare and are accomplished by the implantation of an intrauterine device (often used as a contraceptive but can also be used to provide abortion). Other types of abortion include hysterotomy/hysterectomy procedures on pregnant women.
Most abortions are classified as “curettage” in nature and include vacuum aspiration, sharp curettage, and dilation and evacuation procedures. Again, each procedure is different, and their use depends on the physician and the age of the baby.
Vacuum aspiration abortions are performed by inserting a cannula (a plastic tube) through the cervix into the womb. A pump attached to the other end of the tube is used to full the baby through the tube. The strong suction pulls the baby into pieces. These pieces must be counted and identified afterward to ensure the entire baby has been removed. Sometimes the tube will not be able to dismember the baby and he/she will have to be pulled out using forceps. When forceps are used, the baby may have died in the womb or may be left to die in the suction bottle.
Abortions completed by vacuum aspiration have many possible risks and can lead to serious illness and even the mother’s death. Due to the blind nature of the procedure (the doctor cannot see in the womb), there is a risk that parts of the baby will be left in the womb. This can cause recurring cramping, abdominal pain and bleeding that may not even appear until several weeks later.
Nearly one in 30 vacuum aspiration abortions performed before six weeks “misses” the baby and he/she will continue to grow and develop. In cases such as these, the abortion must be repeated. Other complications include uterine perforation which occurs when a hole is torn in the uterus by the cannula or other instrument. This causes bleeding which can lead to hemorrhaging, infection, and scarring.4,5 In some cases, the perforation can lead to required hysterectomies and even the death of the mother.6
Sharp Curettage (D & C)
Dilation and curettage abortions are more rare, accounting for two to three percent of all abortions (almost 25% of abortions when first legalized).7 D & C abortions are performed on babies in the first trimester of life.8
In a D & C abortion the first step is to dilate (D) the cervix so a curette (C), a metal rod with a handle on one end and a sharp loop on the other, can be inserted. The sharp loop of the curette is used to scrape the baby off the uterus wall.
D & C abortions have risks similar to vacuum aspiration abortions. Possible complications include missing the baby or parts of the baby (causing infection and severe bleeding). There is also a greater change of a uterine puncture because of the sharp instrument used. Less common risks include Asherman’s syndrome, which can cause abnormal or painful menstrual cycles, future miscarriages, and infertility.9
Dilation and Evacuation (D & E)
Dilation and evacuation is a procedure for larger babies (second and third trimester) that would not fit through vacuum tubes. In this procedure, the cervix is dilated, and forceps are inserted into the womb. The baby is pulled into pieces and removed.10,11
For babies that are larger, the baby is first killed by either poisoning with an injection of digoxin or potassium chloride or by cutting the umbilical cord and allowing him/her to bleed to death.12 Killing the baby first, softens the tissue and makes is easier to pull the baby into pieces during the evacuation.13
Risks of a D & E abortion are greater than D & C and vacuum aspiration because these procedures are done later in the pregnancy and the baby is larger. Risks include infection, heavy bleeding, and perforation of the uterus. Also possible is cervical incompetence (a condition in which the cervix opens too early, increasing the risk of a miscarriage in future pregnancies) and injury to the cervix.14 Severe illness, infertility and death can be caused by D & E and other abortion methods.
A medical abortion is a procedure in which drugs are given – either orally or by injection – to kill the baby. The most common drug given is Mifepristone, which is administered in 90% of medical abortions. Medical abortions are used up to 63 days after conception,15 when the baby is well formed and recognizable as a little human being.
Mifepristone (also known as RU-486) destroys the connection between the baby and the mother (the placenta) by breaking down the lining of the uterus.16 An additional drug, misoprostol, is given to induce labor so that the dead baby can be delivered. As would be expected, the drug causes severe bleeding and at times a suction aspiration procedure may be needed to complete the abortion.
Medical abortions are ten times more likely to cause death to the mother than surgical abortion.17 Medical abortion causes extremely heavy bleeding and causes the body to begin the birthing process. The dead baby is delivered from a few hours to two weeks later depending on the drug used.