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).
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.
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).
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.