Abortion Methods

Over 52 million unborn babies have been killed nationwide since the Supreme Court invalidated laws protecting unborn children in all 50 states in the January 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Contrary to what many believe, in this country an unborn child can be legally killed at any time during the nine months of pregnancy - simply because he or she is not wanted by his/her mother, is inconvenient, imperfect or even the "wrong" sex. An estimated 1.2 million babies are killed annually by abortion each year...one baby approximately every 24 seconds.

There are several methods of abortion:


Suction Aspiration

This method - also called "vacuum aspiration" or "vacuum curettage" - is used in 90% of all abortions performed during the first trimester. A tube (often with a sharp cutting edge) is inserted through the cervix into the uterus and connected to a strong suction apparatus. The powerful vacuum dismembers the tiny baby and placenta, tearing them to pieces and sucking them into a collection bottle. Although the baby is extremely small, body parts are often easily identified, and the abortionist will typically do so to ensure all contents of the uterus have been removed. This method sometimes follows a D & C abortion. Infections, damage and pain in the cervix and uterus can result. Dilation and Curettage (D & C) These abortions are usually done before 12 weeks. The cervix is dilated to permit the insertion of a loop-shaped knife which is used to cut the baby into pieces and scrape him or her from the uterine wall. Body parts are pulled out piece by piece through the cervix. The scraping of the uterus typically involves more bleeding than from a suction abortion and increases the risk of uterine perforation and infection.

RU 486

This abortion regimen actually involves the use of two synthetic hormones: the French-developed "abortion pill" called mifepristone and a labor-inducing drug, or prostaglandin, usually the generically named misoprostol. Used between the fifth and ninth weeks of pregnancy, this procedure requires at least two visits to the clinic or hospital. On the first visit women are given a physical exam to rule out contraindications - smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, allergies, epilepsy, asthma or age restrictions (under 18 or over 35) - which could make the drugs deadly. The RU 486 drug (mifepristone) is taken to inhibit the production of progesterone, the hormone which prepares the nutrient-rich lining of the uterus. As a result the tiny developing baby literally starves to death as the womb's lining sloughs off. At the second visit women are given misoprostol to induce contractions and cause the dead baby to be expelled from the uterus. While most women abort during the waiting period at the clinic, many abort later - up to five days later - at home, work, etc. A third office visit includes an exam to determine whether the abortion is complete or a surgical abortion will be necessary to complete the procedure. RU 486 can cause severe disabilities in babies who survive the abortion, can injure and possibly kill women and could harm a woman's subsequent offspring. Preliminary findings in clinical trials and other studies reveal serious under-reporting of the abortion technique's adverse side effects. While now only licensed for use in China and certain European nations, RU 486 is being tested in other countries with the objective of extensive marketing over the next several years. Final FDA approval for RU 486 is contingent upon finding and approving the production process of the drug; at this point, however, pro-abortion forces have encountered difficulties in securing a U.S. manufacturer. Methotrexate and Misoprostol Researchers have discovered that the prescription drug methotrexate (often prescribed to combat cancer), when used with misoprostol, can induce abortion during the first trimester. Both drugs act on a woman's reproductive system: methotrexate kills the rapidly growing cells of the trophoblast, the tissue which develops into the placenta, and misoprostol causes uterine contractions to expel the baby. This regimen also involves multiple clinic or hospital visits. After receiving an injection of methotrexate the woman returns 3 to 7 days later to receive the misoprostol vaginally. She returns home, where cramping and bleeding begin. The baby is usually aborted within 24 hours. It is worth noting that methotrexate is a highly toxic drug with side effects and complications such as nausea, pain, diarrhea, bone marrow depression, anemia, liver damage and lung disease occurring even at low doses. Manufacturer warnings claim that deaths have been reported with the use of methotrexate, and even some doctors who support abortion are reluctant to prescribe it because of its high toxicity and unpredictable side effects. Long-term effects of the two drugs are unknown. As with the RU 486 regimen, women using this form of chemical abortion must participate more directly in ending the life of their unborn children, having to verify - often by themselves - that the "uterine contents" have been passed and the procedure is complete. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, many RU 486 advocates fail to see the negative psychological consequences of such an experience.


Dilation and Evacuation (D & E)

Similar to a D & C abortion, this method also necessitates the forced dilation of the cervix. Metal forceps with a sharp cutting edge are used to grasp and pull the baby from the womb. The entire body is removed piece by piece. Because the baby's skull has typically hardened to bone by this time it must sometimes be compressed or crushed in order to be removed from the uterus. As a result, women undergoing this procedure have a higher risk of cervical laceration. Ironically, even some abortionists find this procedure distasteful, as the process of using forceps to twist and tear the baby's body from the womb is undeniably traumatic. Saline Injection A saline - or salt poisoning - abortion procedure may be used after sixteen weeks when enough fluid has accumulated in the amniotic sac surrounding the baby. A long needle is inserted through the mother's abdomen to remove and then replace some of the amniotic fluid with a solution of concentrated salt. The baby breathes in and swallows the solution and usually dies in one to two hours - though sometimes death takes many hours - from salt poisoning, dehydration, convulsions, hemorrhages of the brain and failure of other organs. The baby is literally burned inside and out by the strong salt solution. The baby's thrashing, caused by the trauma of the saline, can be physically painful to his mother and is often psychologically devastating to her. The mother goes into labor and a dead baby is usually delivered within 24 to 48 hours. Prostaglandin This drug causes a woman to go into labor at any stage of pregnancy. It is generally used in middle to late pregnancy to induce abortion. The potent, hormone-like drug is injected into the amniotic sac to produce labor and premature birth. In some cases the unborn baby is born alive and placed aside to die. In order to avoid what some abortionists call "the dreaded complication" of a live birth, it is now customary to kill the child first before "evacuating" him or her from the womb. Using ultrasound, the abortionist directs a needle containing an injection of lethal potassium chloride into the unborn baby's heart. Other abortionists use an injection of digoxin to cause fetal cardiac arrest. Sometimes salt is injected to kill the baby before birth and make the procedure less stressful for the mother. Prostaglandins are accompanied by serious problems of their own, including potentially lethal side effects.

Dilation and Extraction (D & X or Partial-birth)

Publicly unveiled in 1992, this method is used to kill babies from 20 weeks through full term. Because the baby is considerably larger and more well developed at this time, the opening of the woman's cervix must be greatly enlarged in order to perform this abortion. The entire process requires three days. On the first and second visits the woman receives laminaria, cylindrically shaped or tapered devices which are inserted into the cervix and gradually increase in diameter as they absorb water. When the cervix has been sufficiently dilated the abortion is performed. The abortionist ruptures the amniotic sac and drains the fluid. Using ultrasound, the abortionist ascertains the baby's position within the uterus. Forceps are used to turn the baby so that he or she is oriented feet first (breech position) and face down. The abortionist then grasps one of the baby's legs and pulls the entire body, with the exception of the head, outside of the uterus. Because the head is usually too large to deliver, the abortionist uses a sharp pair of surgical scissors to stab the base of the living baby's skull, spreading the scissors to enlarge the hole. The scissors are removed and a suction tube is inserted into the skull opening to "evacuate" the brain. This kills the baby and collapses the head, allowing the abortionist to fully deliver the child. It is worth noting that most babies at this stage of development weigh at least a pound, measure approximately 8 inches in length and are fully formed, with feet roughly 1 inch to 11/2 inches in length. Babies born at this point in pregnancy (19 or 20 weeks) have survived.


A hysterotomy or Caesarean section abortion is used in the last trimester. The womb is entered by surgery through the wall of the abdomen. This abortion procedure parallels a Caesarean section live delivery except that the baby is killed in the uterus or allowed to die from neglect if he or she is not dead upon removal. Because the "complication" of a live birth is a significant risk with this method, many abortionist prefer the more "effective" partial-birth abortion procedure. As with any major surgery this abortion method has inherent risks and a potentially painful recovery for the mother.


Alcorn, Randy, ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments, Multnomah Press, Portland OR, 1994.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR, 05/95, p. 29, Table 3.

Guttmacher, Alan, Family Planning Perspectives, May/June 1994, Vol. 26, p. 101.

National Right to Life Committee, Choose Life, "Pro-Life Leaders Protest New Abortion Drug Duo," September-October, 1995. Seachrist, Lisa.


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