Abortion methods

Click here to see pictures of abortion methods in addition to the text below.

Abortion by dilation and curettage

Dilation and curettage (D&C) is used to treat various uterine conditions in non-pregnant women. However, as an abortion procedure it dismembers the unborn child.

The mother's cervix (neck of the womb) has to be stretched open prior to the abortion. This can cause damage leading to the death or premature delivery of a baby in a subsequent pregnancy. According to doctors, in Britain steps are now taken in National Health Service hospital abortions to soften the cervix to minimise this risk. However, this is not required by law and it is not known whether such measures are taken in private sector abortions.

To check if any fetal parts might still be in the womb a nurse has to examine the baby's remains, but the abortion may still be incomplete with risks of haemorrhage and sepsis (Abortion hazards, GP, 11 May 1979).

Abortion by vacuum aspiration

Suction abortion - in which the fetus is dismembered (torn apart) by a vaccuum machine - is the most common early surgical technique.

The cervix (the neck of the womb) must be stretched open to allow the surgeon to insert a plastic tube into the womb. Sharp-edged openings near the tip of the tube help to dismember the baby so the parts are small enough to be sucked out. The surgeon then uses the suction tube to evacuate the placenta from the womb. The remains of the baby are deposited in a jar for disposal.

This is the technique that abortion promoters call "safe, early abortion". However, the vast majority of abortions are performed on healthy young women for non-medical reasons, and abortionists rarely explain the health risks to their clients.

Vacuum aspiration accounts for around 90% of abortions in England and Wales up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and it is used for around half of abortions performed between 13 and 19 weeks. When used at 13-19 weeks, it is often necessary to use other instruments to remove or crush parts of the baby that are too large to pass through the tube.

Abortion by hysterotomy

This abortion procedure (although comparatively rare) is essentially the same as a caesarian section birth: the mother's abdomen is cut open and the child - typically still alive - is removed from the womb. In Britain, although there has always been a legal duty of care towards a liveborn baby who survives an abortion, there have been documented cases of such babies being left to die.

Since 1990 legislation has allowed the deliberate destruction of a child up to birth when a pregnancy is terminated under the relevant grounds in the Abortion Act. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the professional body to which most doctors performing abortions belong, issued advice to its members in a 1996 paper Termination of Pregnancy for Fetal Abnormality.

They advised surgeons to take steps to kill the baby before delivery, e.g. by cutting the umbilical cord to stop the infant's oxygen supply. This was to avoid the risk of possible legal action if a baby should be 'liveborn' and then die after abortion.

The risks of hysterotomy for the mother have long been known. They include peritonitis, rupture of the operation scar in a future pregnancy, thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (The [Lane] Report on the Working of the Abortion Act, Vol 1, HMSO, 1974).

Abortion by salt-poisoning

A concentrated salt solution is injected into the amniotic fluid, killing the baby by acute salt poisoning. This technique is used after 16 weeks. It is no longer common in many Western countries because of its dangers to the mother, but pro-abortionists have exported this cheap technique for abortions to the majority world (developing countries) such as India.

It takes over an hour for the baby to die. After 24 hours, the mother goes into labour and delivers the dead child (although there are recorded cases of American babies, including singer Gianna Jessen, having survived the procedure).

Like animals, babies cannot tell us whether they are in pain. One indication of suffering is their reaction to what we would find painful.


An alternative (more expensive) late abortion drug is prostaglandin. It is not free of dangers to the mother, being associated with risks of haemorrhage, infection and retention of the placenta requiring surgical intervention. Prostaglandin causes powerful contractions of the womb expelling the fetus, and usually killing him or her in the process, although in some instances babies have been delivered alive as a result. In later abortions, doctors inject a further drug (such as the poison urea) into the womb, to ensure that the baby does not survive.

RU486/prostaglandin briefing