What are the Different Types of Abortion Procedures?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 24 February 2020
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The abortion procedures that are available to women vary depending on the point at which she wishes to terminate the pregnancy. Most early pregnancies can be ended using an abortion pill, as certain medications can stop the growth of the fetus, after which time labor is induced. There are also surgical procedures that can be used in the first and second trimesters, during which the pregnancy is ended, and the fetus is removed from the uterus. Additionally, some types of surgical abortion procedures are only performed later in pregnancy, and are usually referred to as partial birth abortion.

Most early pregnancies can be ended with a pill, followed by another pill that will induce labor. For example, most women are offered methotrexate in order to end the pregnancy before the seventh week, though mifepristone can be taken up until the ninth week. No matter which pill is given to stop the growth of the fetus, it is usually followed by misoprostol to induce labor, allowing all the contents of the uterus to come out. This is crucial since infection can result if any products of the pregnancy are left behind inside the woman's body.

Surgery, rather than medication, is often required for abortion procedures performed later in the first trimester. Suction aspiration is typically used up to week 12 of the pregnancy, and involves using suction to remove the product of the pregnancy from the uterus. A similar procedure, called dilation and curettage, or D&C, may be used from weeks 12 to 15. The difference between this and suction aspiration is that a long knife that is called a curette may be used in a D&C to scrape the uterus, ensuring that everything is removed. Finally, a dilation and evacuation, or D&E, involves all the same steps as a D&C, with the addition of using forceps to help remove the fetus since it is most effective for pregnancies up to 21 weeks along.

Once the fetus reaches a certain size, such as during the third trimester, it is not an option to just use medication or suction. Abortion procedures performed this late are considered rare, and there are only two main types. Induction abortion involves injecting salt water or similar harmful substances into the sac in which the fetus floats. Afterward, the cervix is prepared for delivery of the fetus, typically requiring the use of both prostaglandins and oxytocin to induce labor. One of the other types of abortion procedures used for the third trimester is dilation and extraction, in which an intact but deceased fetus is delivered.

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Post 2

@Reminiscence, I agree with you 100% on the late term abortions. I think they're horrible, and I can see why a lot of states have tried to make them illegal. I'm pro-life, by the way, but I can understand the argument about a woman's right to do what she wants with her own body. I just wish her choice wouldn't be to seek an abortion as a form of birth control. I believe in abstinence, birth control in schools and sex education classes. If a woman becomes pregnant unexpectedly, she should explore every option available, not just the one with the fewest complications.

Post 1

I don't want to step into the abortion/adoption controversy unnecessarily, but I feel that viability of the fetus should be a consideration before performing a late term abortion procedure. I can understand how a woman could choose to abort a fetus before it reaches viability, but if the unborn child could survive outside of the womb, then a live birth and adoption should be strongly considered.

Personally, I consider myself to be pro-choice, but not necessarily pro-abortion. Accidents do happen, and I don't believe a woman should be forced to carry her rapist's child. However, when a woman has been pregnant with an unwanted or unplanned child for seven or eight months, then the ethics of the situation change. There has to be a public or private adoption agency that could find suitable parents for that viable unborn child.

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