Dilation and extraction abortions typically occur at 20-24 weeks into pregnancy, counted from the first day of a woman's last period. At this point in the pregnancy, the mother had missed several periods and can probably feel the baby moving. The child's heart is beating and this can be seen on a doctor's ultrasound device. Eyebrows, eyelashes and fine hair appear. The child can grasp with his hands, kick, or even somersault. Under normal circumstances, the child could live outside the womb with intensive medical care.
Partial-Birth Abortion (D&E)
What is a partial-birth abortion?
Partial birth abortion is a method of late-term abortion that results in the death and intact removal of an unborn child. This procedure is commonly referred to as intact dilatation and extraction (D&X).
How does dilation and extraction abortion work?
Medical preparation for D&X involves one or more outpatient visits to administer medications and laminaria (a medical product made of seaweed that expands slowly over time) to cause the cervix to begin dilating. An anesthetic injection is administered to numb the cervix which makes the procedure less painful for the woman, but no anesthetic is administered to the unborn child. Dilating tools are used to help stretch open the cervix wide enough to perform the abortion. Using forceps, the doctor pulls the fetus into a breech postion, and then delivers all but the head of the baby. The doctor then makes a hole in the base of the skull, and suctions out the brain with a tube, which kills the child. This causes the head to collapse, making it easier to deliver the baby. Because the child is already halfway out the birth canal before it is killed, this controversial procedure is sometimes called a "partial-birth abortion."
Side-effects and health risks of dilation and extraction abortion:
With all abortion, the later in pregnancy an abortion is performed, the more complicated the procedure and the greater the risk of injury to the woman. All abortions involve a degree of post-operative bleeding. Infection is a fairly common problem after an abortion. Although it is easily treated with antibiotics, the infection can result in impaired fertility. Cervical tearing can occur as a result of the dilating process, which may require stitches. A less common but more serious complication is perforation of the uterine wall; this could require surgical repair in a hospital, depending on the severity. In rare cases, abortion patients may experience a major complication, such as a life-threatening pelvic infection, hemorrhage requiring a blood transfusion, uterine rupture, or unintended major surgery. Long-term health risks may include increased risk of miscarriage for future pregnancies.
Because late abortion is physically painful and often emotionally distressing, many women elect to have general anesthesia for the procedure. Potential anesthetic complications include severe hemorrhage, convulsion, cardiac arrest, and death.
- Abortion as Birth Control: Contraceptive Information Resource (Contracept.org)
- About Abortion: Epigee Women's Health (Epigee.org)
- Abortion Methods: Epigee Women's Health (Epigee.org)