The following is a basic presentation of abortion methods commonly used. If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, we encourage you to request an appointment to learn more about your options and how we can help. Our services are fast, free of charge, and confidential.
Medical abortion involves the use of drugs or chemicals to end the life of the developing fetus during the early stages of human growth. Currently, 3 chemicals are used to perform a medical abortion: methotrexate, misoprotol, and mifepristone (RU-486). These chemicals are used in combination protocols.
- Methotrexate is a chemical that prevents the developing fetus and placenta from properly using folic acid. Without the normal use of folic acid, the fetus cannot make, repair, or replicate DNA in order to survive.
- Misoprotol (Cytotec) is a chemical that resembles a prostaglandin in its action. It causes very intense uterine contractions to expel the developing fetus and placenta.
- Mifepristone (RU-486 / The Abortion Pill/Mifeprex) is a chemical that blocks the action of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is needed to continue the pregnancy by maintaining the lining of the uterus; this is necessary for normal implantation as well as normal placental attachment and development. RU-486 causes the the lining to die and separate from the uterine wall. When this happens, the fetus’ blood supply (carrying nutrients and oxygen) is cut off. Both the placenta and the fetus eventually fall from the uterine wall attachment site.
Surgical Abortion involves the use of a suction or vacuum aspirator to remove the developing fetus from the uterus. Suction aspiration is the most common 1st trimester technique. It is used to terminate a pregnancy up to 14 weeks old.
- Dilation and Evacuation is the most common surgical technique used in the 2nd trimester. Generally, it is performed when the pregnancy is between 12 – 24 weeks gestational age. Because the developing fetus is bigger at this stage and bone calcification has occurred, forceps are used to empty the uterus. The cervix must be opened wider (than that required in a D&C or Suction Aspiration) to allow entry of forceps. Forceps refers to the surgical instrument resembling pliers with sharp teeth used to grab and pull out body parts/tissue. Intravenous sedation or general anesthesia may be required.
- Saline (or other toxic level chemical) injection is performed when a pregnancy is 16 weeks and beyond (when enough amniotic fluid is present to surround the fetus). A long needle is inserted through the mother’s abdomen (belly) into the amniotic sac. Amniotic fluid is removed from the sac and is replaced by a very strong salt solution meant to kill the fetus. By the 4th month of pregnancy, the fetus has been drinking and breathing in amniotic fluid to help the organs develop properly. However, when the salt solution is substituted for the normal amniotic fluid, it causes severe burning of the fetus’ skin, eyes, mouth and lungs. Labor may begin within 24 hours of the saline injection resulting in the delivery of a badly burned, shriveled, dead fetus. The fetus may survive this procedure and be delivered alive. But, may not live for a very long time thereafter.
- Dilation and Extraction: a surgical abortion procedure used to terminate a pregnancy after 21 weeks of gestation. This procedure is also known as D & X, Intact D & X, Intrauterine Cranial Decompression and Partial Birth Abortion. When this procedure is used on full term sized fetuses, it is in effect, intentionally rearranging the fetus’ in-utero position from head down to feet and legs down for a breech delivery. The body of the fetus, except the head, is pulled through the cervical opening. The doctor makes an incision (cut) at the base of the skull and inserts a catheter (tube) to suck out the brain, causing the skull to collapse. The dead body is then removed completely from the uterus. NOTE: Partial Birth abortion is currently banned in the United States.