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What is a Partial Birth Abortion?

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  • Written By: Jami Yontz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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Partial birth abortion, also known as intact dilation and extraction, is a medical procedure where the fetus is evacuated by dilating the cervix, causing pre-term labor. The fetus is positioned so that the physician can pull the feet through the vaginal canal, also known as breech position. Brain matter of the fetus is then emptied until the skull collapses, allowing the fetus to be fully extracted from the uterus. Partial birth abortion is a term used in both political and religious discourse and as the title of United States constitutional ban on late-term abortions, which are abortions performed in the third trimester of pregnancy and to a viable fetus.

Intact dilation and extraction is also known as dilation and evacuation, evacuation of retained products of conception (EROPC), and surgical termination of pregnancy. The procedure is sometimes performed in non-abortion procedures to evacuate the uterus of a pregnancy that has ended in miscarriage during the second or third trimester. During the first trimester, a suction aspiration procedure can be performed to remove the contents of the uterus.

To perform a partial birth abortion, laminaria is inserted in the cervix to induce labor by dilating the cervix, which usually takes about two days. Once the woman’s water has broken, she will return to the facility where the physician will position the fetus for partial delivery. Side effects of the procedure include abdominal cramping, nausea, and spotting. There is also risk that the uterine lining could be damaged during the procedure or that an infection could occur.

Partial birth abortion is a term that was created by Douglas Johnson, a lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) in 1995. It was used to describe dilation and evacuation, a procedure created as an alternative to the type of late-term abortions performed during this time that required the fetus to be destroyed or dismembered in uterine. These procedures caused severe blood loss for the woman, and she devloped a higher-risk of having future complications when conceiving or carrying a fetus.

Sometimes, a intact dilation and extraction is recommended for a woman when her life is in danger as a result of the pregnancy. The 2003 Partial Birth Abortion ban, signed into law by President George W. Bush, does not allow the procedure to be performed in high-risk instances, a major argumentative point for many pro-choice, people who support a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, groups and advocates.

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