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Abortion Techniques


What is an abortion?


In Australia the term abortion is commonly used where the unborn baby (also referred to as a foetus, which is Latin for ‘offspring’) has been:

  • surgically removed from his or her mother’s womb, by use of instruments; or
  • medically expelled from his or her mother’s womb, by use of chemicals.

Late-term abortion is used to describe an abortion that takes place after 20 weeks gestation (or 18 weeks conception).

RU-486, Mifepristone (Abortion Pill): generally within 3 to 7 weeks


A drug that produces an abortion taken after the mother misses her period. Its effect is to block the use of an essential hormonal nutrient by the newly-implanted baby, who then dies, and drops off. Note that RU-486 is not a contraceptive because it does not prevent fertilisation or implantation.


RU486 abortion pill


RU-486 is used only after the mother has missed her period and the baby is at least two to three weeks old, with a beating heart (the foetal heart begins to beat when the woman is four days late for her period). It is less effective after seven weeks.


There are two parts to a medical abortion: 

1st is RU486 (an anti progesterone which can be reversed), 2nd is misoprostol which causes the uterus to contract and cannot be reversed.  NOTE: REAL CHOICES www.realchoices.org.au can arrange emergency reversal of the abortion. 


Abortion providers also use RU486 in later abortions because it makes induced 2nd trimester abortions (around 20 weeks) – which can last 12 to 36 hours – shorter and less arduous.


Manual Vacuum Aspiration: up to 6 weeks of pregnancy

This surgical abortion is done early in the pregnancy up until 6 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. A long, thin tube is inserted into the uterus. A large syringe is attached to the tube and the embryo is suctioned out. (Around 0.6% of abortions are performed before 6 weeks of gestation.)

Vacuum Aspiration/Suction Curettage: between 6 to 14 weeks

The abortionist first paralyses the cervix (womb opening). He then inserts a hollow plastic tube with a knife-like tip into the uterus. The tube is connected to a powerful pump with a suction force 29 times more powerful than a home vacuum cleaner. The suction pulls the unborn baby’s body parts out of the uterus. The doctor may also use a loop-shaped knife, called a curette, to scrape the unborn baby’s body or body parts out of the uterus.

Dilation & Evacuation (D&E): between 13 to 24 weeks



Performed during the second trimester of pregnancy. This method has largely replaced saline and chemical abortions, which too frequently resulted in live births, a complication from the abortionist’s perspective! A pliers-like instrument is needed because the unborn baby’s bones are calcified, as is the skull. There is no anaesthetic given to the unborn baby. The abortionist inserts the instrument into the uterus, seizes a leg or other part of the body and, with a twisting motion, tears it from the baby’s body. This is repeated again and again. The spine must be snapped, and the skull crushed to remove them. The nurse’s job is to reassemble the body parts to be sure that all are removed.

Apart from South Australia abortion clinics, which are legally required to keep abortion records, it is difficult to know precisely how many Dilation & Evacuations abortions are performed throughout Australia each year. However, it has been estimated that about 8,000 unborn babies are killed by this method annually. In South Australia in 2010, 418 dilation and evacuation abortions were performed.

Warren Hern, who the NAF credits as being an “American innovator” in D&E technique, offers the following instruction:


It is better to use smaller forceps and take smaller amounts of tissue each time than to deliver fetal parts intact while traumatising the cervix… At 16 to 17 weeks, fetal tissue is much more easily identifiable with the forceps and in some ways is easier to grasp and remove than in earlier gestations. The [skull] is about the size of a Ping-Pong ball and usually can be grasped readily with the Bierer. Collapsing it gives a definite sensation… At 18-19 menstrual weeks… fetal parts are significantly larger and more difficult to morcellate (tear into pieces)… [Abortion after the] 20-week gestation… can be a significantly more difficult procedure accompanied by unnerving hemorrhage. Forceps use must be sure and relatively rapid. There is frequently not much time for exploring the nuances of different tissue sensations. Grasping and collapsing the [skull is] often difficult. Stripping the [skull] of soft tissue is sometimes the first step in successful delivery of this part, followed by dislocation of parietal bones. In this case, care must be taken in removal because ossification is occurring and the edges are sharp…Regardless of the amount of dilatation, delivery of the [skull] and pelvis is sometimes difficult… The advantage obtained by having a softened cervix could become a disaster if a laceration develops at the level of the internal os [the opening of the cervix into the body of the uterus] as the result of too much force… The procedure changes significantly at 21 weeks because the fetal tissues become much more cohesive and difficult to dismember. This problem is accentuated by the fact that the fetal pelvis may be as much as 5 cm in width… [The skull] can be collapsed. Other structures, such as the pelvis, present more difficulty… A long curved Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the fetus, since it may be impossible to apply forceps or to do so while avoiding the thinned-out cervix.”2


Prostaglandin Abortions: 16-24 weeks

Prostaglandin is a chemical hormone. It is used in three forms to bring about an abortion; two are injected and one is a vaginal suppository. The hormone given produces a violent labour and delivery of whatever size baby the mother carries. If the baby is old enough to survive the trauma of labour, the infant may be born alive. This is considered a “live birth!” What happens to these babies? Because they are so unwanted, they are left to die in a stainless steel dish or side room and later disposed of into a medical waste bin. There have also been reports of surviving babies being dropped into a bucket of formaldehyde to hasten their death.


Dilatation & Extraction (D & X – Partial Birth): from 20 weeks



The Partial-Birth Abortion procedure is used in Australia after 20 weeks (4.5 months) of pregnancy. The cervix is dilated to allow passage of a ring forceps. A foot or lower leg is located and pulled into the vagina. The baby is extracted in breech fashion until the head is just inside the cervix. The baby’s legs hang outside the woman’s body. With the baby face-down, scissors are plunged into the baby’s head at the nape of the neck and spread open to enlarge the wound. A suction tip is inserted and the baby’s brain is removed. The skull collapses and the baby is delivered.There is no anaesthetic given to the baby. (Read below about a nurse’s eyewitness account of a partial birth procedure.)

Although Australia allows ‘partial birth’ abortions, the United States Congress has enacted laws banning the practice of this heinous procedure. During US Senate deliberations on this issue, a US registered nurse, Brenda Pratt Shafer, reported her experience as an agency nurse, which occurred in September 1993, arising from the assistance of a partial birth abortion. Her description is a shocking and heart wrenching account of what is involved in the procedure.


This is what Nurse Brenda Shafer saw:

Hear her interview  >>Youtube  



"I stood at the doctor’s side and watched him perform a partial-birth abortion on a woman who was six months pregnant. The baby’s heartbeat was clearly visible on the ultrasound screen. The doctor delivered the baby’s body and arms, everything but his little head.


"The baby’s body was moving. His little fingers were clasping together. He was kicking his feet. The doctor took a pair of scissors and inserted them into the back of the baby’s head, and the baby’s arms jerked out in a flinch, a startled reaction, like a baby does when he thinks that he might fall.

“Then the doctor opened the scissors up. Then he stuck the high-powered suction tube into the hole and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby was completely limp. I never went back to the clinic. But I am still haunted by the face of that little boy. It was the most perfect, angelic face I have ever seen.”


Full story


Hysterotomy: between 12 and 24 weeks


This method is usually used late in pregnancy and is likened to an “early” Caesarian section. The mother’s abdomen and uterus are surgically opened and the baby is lifted out. There is no anaesthetic given to the baby. Unfortunately, many of these babies are very much alive when removed. To kill the babies, some abortionists have been known to plunge them into buckets of water or smother them with the placentas. Others have cut the cord while the baby is still inside the uterus depriving the baby of oxygen.



Most of text relating to surgical abortions adapted from Abortion and Social Justice, NY: Sheed & Ward, 1972
US Committee on the Judiciary Re: Partial Birth Abortion, 1996

Recommended listening (youtube):
Gianna Jennsen abortion survivor

1 Cassing Hammond MD, and Stephen Chasen MD, “Dilation and Evacuation,” Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy. Ed. Paul, Lichtenberg, Borgatta, Grimes, Stubblefield and Creinin. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), p158.

2 Warren M. Hern. Abortion Practice (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1990), pp1