Abortion Procedure Summary

RU486, Mifepristone

Otherwise known as the “abortion pill,” this medically-induced abortion is used for women who are within 70 days of their LMP. A procedure which usually requires three office visits, the RU486 or mifepristone pills are given to the woman who returns two days later for a second medication called misprostol. In short, the combination of these medications causes the uterus to expel the fetus.

Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA)

This surgical abortion is done early in the pregnancy up until 7 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period (LMP). The cervical muscle is stretched with dilators (metal rods) until the opening is wide enough to allow the abortion instruments to pass into the uterus. A hand held syringe is attached to tubing that is inserted into the uterus and the fetus is suctioned out manually.

Dilation and Suction Curettage (D&C)

This is the most common abortive procedure, performed within 6 to 14 weeks after the woman’s LMP. The doctor opens the cervix with a dilator (a metal rod), laminaria (thin sticks derived from plants and inserted hours before the procedure), or combination of the two. The doctor next inserts tubing into the uterus which is connected to a suction machine. When turned on, the machine creates suction powerful enough to pull the fetus’ body apart, finally expelling it from the uterus. A sometimes necessary variation of this procedure is called Dilation and Curettage (D&C), a method in which the doctor uses a curette (a loop-shaped knife) to scrape the various parts of the un-evacuated fetus out of the uterus.

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)

This surgical abortion is performed during the second trimester of pregnancy (13 to 24 weeks after LMP). At this stage the body of the fetus is simply too large to be broken up by suction and pass through the suction tubing. In this procedure, therefore, the cervix must be opened even wider than in a first trimester abortion. This is accomplished by inserting laminaria a day or two before the abortion. After opening the cervix, the doctor uses strong forceps to break apart the still-alive fetus into pieces small enough to pass through the uterus. To make removal easier, the fetus’ skull is crushed.

Second and Third Trimester Abortion by Induction

Fetal demise is accomplished by injection of medication into the fetal heart. This medication can be digoxin or potassium chloride. The cervix is softened with medication and laminaria. Labor is induced and the fetus is expelled on average 20 hours later. In some cases the induction method fails or cannot be used, an extraction procedure is used to remove the fetal pieces using forceps. A hysterotomy (c-section) may be used as well.1

1 – Abortion methods: Chemical, medical and instrument free. (2015). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from Orlando Womens Center: womenscenter.com/abortion_methods.html