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What Is a Third Trimester Abortion?

A third trimester abortion terminates a pregnancy during a woman's third trimester of pregnancy.
Third trimester abortions are the subject of controversy.
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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2014
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A third trimester abortion — or late term abortion — is a medical procedure that takes place following the sixth month of a pregnancy. The procedure involves removal of a fetus and subsequent termination of the pregnancy. Reasons for performing a third trimester abortion may include a medical issue with the pregnancy that threatens the mother’s health or fulfilling the mother’s wishes for termination. Late term abortions have long been one of the most contentious types of abortion, with many political and social activists divided on the issue.

Pregnancies are divided into three-month intervals, or trimesters. Each period is marked by certain milestones in fetal development. The third trimester in an average pregnancy typically involves superficial aspects of development like weight gain, bone thickening, and nail generation. Any abortion performed during the third trimester will likely necessitate some type of surgical extraction of the fetus.

While most abortions take place during the first trimester, research indicates a varying number of reasons why women opt for a third trimester abortion. On many occasions, the pregnancy is not recognized until it has reached the later stages. Economic or other life hardships may also prevent a woman from obtaining an earlier abortion. Health issues impacting either the pregnant woman or the fetus may arise later in the pregnancy and thus influence an abortion decision as well. Sometimes, a woman may simply delay making a final decision about her pregnancy options.

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Controversy often surrounds the third trimester abortion due to debates about the fetus’ development. Since many fetuses have developed key vital organs by the time of the third trimester, opponents of late term abortion view the fetus as viable, or able to be born. Abortion critics in general may view any fetus as a living being, and therefore see the practice of abortion and third trimester abortion in particular as a wrongful killing. Supporters of abortion, on the other hand, argue for a woman’s right to continue or terminate a pregnancy regardless of the time period of the pregnancy. Further, third trimester abortions are often necessitated by health concerns for the mother or other factors that merit consideration.

Due to ongoing debate, laws and viewpoints vary widely by region and are often subject to change. Some regions of the world ban legal abortion entirely, while others place restrictions on late term abortions. Perhaps the most banned form of abortion is partial birth abortion — or dilation and extraction — in which the fetus is partially delivered before being terminated.

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Discuss this Article

turquoise
Post 3

Third trimester abortions are rare. Most states do not allow them unless the baby dies in the womb or the mother's life is at risk.

donasmrs
Post 2

@ankara-- There can be many reasons for a third trimester abortion. The mother can develop serious complications that put her life in danger in the third trimester of pregnancy. In such a situation, the mother's life usually takes preference over the child's. Of course, if the baby is at a stage that he can survive outside the womb at that time, doctors will do their best to keep him alive.

Another reason for third trimester abortion is fetal abnormality. Sometimes, parents do not become aware that there is a problem with the baby until the third trimester. At that point, it's a personal decision for the parents to decide if they want the child or not.

As much as I disagree with third trimester abortions where it's not an emergency requirement, I think it's the woman's decision. It's sad, but not everyone is willing or capable of raising a child with a disability.

bluedolphin
Post 1

I'm a little confused about 3rd trimester abortion.

Isn't the baby able to survive on its own for the most part after the 7 month mark? So during the 3rd trimester, the baby can be delivered and survive on its own or with life support at the hospital. Why would anyone want to abort a child that's basically ready to be born anyway?

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