Ever since the third and final presidential debate last week, many questions have been circulating online about the truth behind late-term abortions (performed in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy). As a former abortion clinic director, I can help answer some of these questions.
Yes, late-term abortions are legal in the U.S. and do take place through the entire 3rd trimester, including through the 9th month of pregnancy. According to the latest Guttmacher data, about 18,000 3rd trimester abortions are performed every year.
These abortions can be performed for the “life or health” of the mother. What this means is that a late-term abortion can be provided for any reason, as long as the abortionist checks a box on her chart stating it was affecting her “life or health.” No documentation of proof is required.
According to several former late term abortion clinic workers who have come through my organization And Then There Were None, approximately 50% of 3rd trimester abortions are performed on healthy babies. In my own personal experience, we often referred women to late-term abortion providers who were pregnant with healthy babies, but they wanted the abortion because they had either just broken up with the baby's father, lost their job, or something similar.
Since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, abortion doctors have devised an alternative method - and believe it or not, it’s more dangerous for the woman.
When a woman comes in for a late-term abortion, her cervix is dilated through the administration of one of two medications called misoprostol (cytotec) and pitocin and/or laminaria/lamicel insertion. Laminaria are made of sterilized seaweed and look like tiny tampons. Lamicel are similar, but made of a synthetic material. The misoprostol is taken orally prior to surgery and may take several hours to work. Misoprostol is a medication administered to relax the cervix muscle so that the surgeon can dilate it easily. Pitocin is also used sometimes to help with this process and is administered through an I.V.
If laminaria or lamicel is necessary to complete dilation, they must be inserted into the patient’s cervix by the physician prior to the abortion procedure. The laminaria/lamicel act like sponges by absorbing the moisture in the patient’s vagina and expanding to gently open the cervix.
Laminaria/lamicel and misoprostol will be administered on day one. Also, on day one, the physician will also administer a medication called digoxin. This medication is generally injected into the amniotic fluid. The fetus will then drink in the digoxin and will overdose in the womb. It can take up to 48 hours for death to occur. During this time, the mother may feel her child struggling to die in her womb.
On day two or three, the physician will perform the surgical abortion after dilation of the cervix is complete - this may take several hours or overnight. The doctor will remove the laminaria (if applicable), insert a speculum into the vagina, and then remove the unborn child using vacuum aspiration (suction), forceps, curettes and sometimes physical pressure to the abdomen. The surgical procedure takes approximately 10 – 25 minutes. After surgery, the mother is taken into the recovery room, where nurses will monitor her for approximately 45 minutes.
As many obstetricians have noted, a late term abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother. At times, a medical induction may be necessary, but never an abortion. During a medical induction, the baby is delivered early and given life saving care after delivery, instead of being aborted and killed before delivery.
Do elective abortions take place through the 9th month of pregnancy? The unfortunate and horrifying answer is yes. We must work to end these barbaric practices and truly care for mothers and their children.