Fetal Growth and Development

Abortion Images

Abortion Methods

Fetal Pain

Side Effects of Abortion

Supreme Court Rulings on Abortion

Stories from Post-Abortive Women

Abortion FAQ

The Hard Cases

History of Abortion in America


News & Press Releases

The latest updates on news, legislation, and committee hearings. Click here

Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Contact these organizations if you or someone you know is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Click Here


Help RI Right to Life advocate for the unborn, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled. Click Here


Are you a passionate pro-life person who would like to help us with your time and talent? Click Here

Abortion Methods

More than 40 million unborn babies have been killed nationwide since abortion was legalized by the January 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Contrary to what many believe, today in this country an unborn child can be legally killed at any time throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy - simply because he or she may be unwanted, inconvenient, imperfect, or even the "wrong" sex. An estimated 1.2 million babies are killed annually by abortion...that’s one baby approximately every 24 seconds.

Methods of Abortion

First Trimester

Morning-After Pill / Plan B / Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception (also called Plan B or the morning-after pill) is a high dosage of the same hormones in the birth control pill. It is taken up to 72 hours after intercourse to either prevent or end a pregnancy.

The morning-after pill works by three mechanisms:

  1. If ovulation has not yet occurred, it works to prevent ovulation, which means that no egg will be released and therefore conception cannot happen
  2. It can also work by delaying ovulation, which means that the sperm would die before an egg is released, also preventing conception
  3. If ovulation has already happened before a woman takes the morning-after pill, the pill works by irritating the uterine lining so that if conception has occurred, the newly formed baby cannot attach to the lining of the uterus, causing a very early abortion.

For more information about the morning after pill / Plan B / emergency contraception, see:

Site: http://www.morningafterpill.org/index.htm

Article: http://www.lifeissues.org/abortifacients/emergencycont.html

Dilation and Curettage (D & C)

These abortions are usually done before 12 weeks. The cervix is dilated to permit the insertion of a loop-shaped knife that is used to cut the baby into pieces and scrape him or her from the uterine wall. Body parts are pulled out piece by piece through the cervix. The scraping of the uterus typically involves more bleeding than from a suction abortion and increases the risk of uterine perforation and infection.

Suction Aspiration

This method - also called "vacuum aspiration" or "vacuum curettage" - is used in 90% of all abortions performed during the first trimester. A tube (often with a sharp cutting edge) is inserted through the cervix into the uterus and is connected to a strong suction apparatus. The powerful vacuum dismembers the tiny baby and placenta, tearing them to pieces and sucking them into a collection bottle. Although the baby is extremely small, body parts are often easily identified, and the abortionist will typically identify the parts to ensure that all contents of the uterus have been removed. This method sometimes follows a D & C abortion. Infections, damage, and pain in the cervix and uterus can result.

RU 486

This abortion regimen involves the use of two synthetic hormones: the French-developed "abortion pill" called mifepristone and a labor-inducing drug, or prostaglandin, usually the generically named misoprostol. Used between the fifth and ninth weeks of pregnancy, this procedure requires at least two visits to the clinic or hospital. On the first visit, the woman is given a physical exam to rule out contraindications - smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, allergies, epilepsy, asthma, or age restrictions (under 18 or over 35) - which could make the drugs deadly. The RU 486 drug (mifepristone) is taken to inhibit the production of progesterone, the hormone that prepares the nutrient-rich lining of the uterus. As a result, the tiny developing baby literally starves to death as the womb's lining sloughs off. At the second visit, the woman is given misoprostol to induce contractions and cause the dead baby to be expelled from the uterus. While most women abort during the waiting period at the clinic, many abort later - up to five days later - at home, work, etc. A third office visit includes an exam to determine whether the abortion is complete or whether a surgical abortion will be necessary to complete the procedure. RU 486 can cause severe disabilities in babies who survive the abortion, can injure and possibly kill women, and could harm a woman's subsequent offspring. There have been five reported deaths of women who have taken RU 486 in the U. S. (See this article http://www.nrlc.org/news/2005/NRL09/RU486Deaths.html for more information about for further information regarding the deadly side effects and risks of RU 486.)

Methotrexate and Misoprostol

Researchers have discovered that the prescription drug methotrexate (often prescribed to combat cancer), when used with misoprostol, can induce abortion during the first trimester. Both drugs act on a woman's reproductive system: methotrexate kills the rapidly growing cells of the trophoblast, the tissue that develops into the placenta, and misoprostol causes uterine contractions to expel the baby. This regimen also involves multiple clinic or hospital visits. After receiving an injection of methotrexate, the woman returns 3 to 7 days later to receive the misoprostol vaginally. She returns home, where cramping and bleeding begin. The baby is usually aborted within 24 hours.

It is worth noting that methotrexate is a highly toxic drug with side effects and complications such as nausea, pain, diarrhea, bone marrow depression, anemia, liver damage, and lung disease occurring even at low doses. Manufacturer warnings claim that deaths have been reported with the use of methotrexate, and even some doctors who support abortion are reluctant to prescribe methotrexate because of its high toxicity and unpredictable side effects. Long-term effects of the two drugs are unknown.

As with the RU 486 regimen, women using this form of chemical abortion must participate more directly in ending the life of their unborn children, having to verify - often by themselves - that the "uterine contents" have been passed and the procedure is complete. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, many RU 486 and methotrexate advocates fail to see the negative psychological consequences of such an experience.

For more information about methotrexate, see this page: http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/ASMF/asmf7.html

Back to Top

Second and Third Trimester

Dilation and Evacuation (D & E)

Similar to a D & C abortion, this method also necessitates the forced dilation of the cervix. Metal forceps with a sharp cutting edge are used to grasp and pull the baby from the womb. The entire body is removed piece by piece. Because the baby's skull has typically hardened to bone by this time, it must sometimes be compressed or crushed in order to be removed from the uterus. As a result, women undergoing this procedure have a higher risk of cervical laceration. Ironically, even some abortionists find this procedure distasteful, as the process of using forceps to twist and tear the baby's body from the womb is undeniably traumatic.

Saline Injection

A saline - or salt poisoning - abortion procedure may be used after sixteen weeks when enough fluid has accumulated in the amniotic sac surrounding the baby. A long needle is inserted through the mother's abdomen to remove and then replace some of the amniotic fluid with a solution of concentrated salt. The baby breathes in and swallows the solution and usually dies in one to two hours - though sometimes death takes many hours - from salt poisoning, dehydration, convulsions, hemorrhages of the brain, and failure of other organs. The baby is literally burned inside and out by the strong salt solution. The baby's thrashing, caused by the trauma of the saline, can be physically painful to the mother and is often psychologically devastating to her. The mother goes into labor and a dead baby is usually delivered within 24 to 48 hours.


This drug causes a woman to go into labor at any stage of pregnancy. It is generally used in middle to late pregnancy to induce abortion. The potent, hormone-like drug is injected into the amniotic sac to produce labor and premature birth. In some cases, the unborn baby is born alive and placed aside to die. In order to avoid what some abortionists call "the dreaded complication" of a live birth, it is now customary to kill the child first before "evacuating" him or her from the womb. Using ultrasound, the abortionist directs a needle containing an injection of lethal potassium chloride into the unborn baby's heart. Other abortionists use an injection of digoxin to cause fetal cardiac arrest. Sometimes salt is injected to kill the baby before birth and make the procedure less stressful for the mother. Prostaglandins are accompanied by serious problems of their own, including potentially lethal side effects.

Dilation and Extraction (D & X or Partial-birth)

Publicly unveiled in 1992, this method is used to kill babies from 20 weeks through full term. Because the baby is considerably larger and more well developed at this time, the opening of the woman's cervix must be greatly enlarged in order to perform this abortion. The entire process requires three days. On the first and second visits, the woman receives laminaria, cylindrically shaped or tapered devices which are inserted into the cervix and gradually increase in diameter as they absorb water. When the cervix has been sufficiently dilated the abortion is performed. The abortionist ruptures the amniotic sac and drains the fluid. Using ultrasound, the abortionist ascertains the baby's position within the uterus. Forceps are used to turn the baby so that he or she is oriented feet first (breech position) and face down. The abortionist then grasps one of the baby's legs and pulls the entire body, with the exception of the head, outside of the uterus. Because the head is usually too large to deliver, the abortionist uses a sharp pair of surgical scissors to stab the base of the living baby's skull, spreading the scissors to enlarge the hole. The scissors are removed and a suction tube is inserted into the skull opening to "evacuate" the brain. This kills the baby and collapses the head, allowing the abortionist to fully deliver the child.

It is worth noting that most babies at this stage of development weigh at least a pound, measure approximately 8 inches in length and are fully formed, with feet roughly 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches in length. Babies born at this point in pregnancy (19 or 20 weeks) have survived. (Click here for further information about partial-birth abortions).

To see medically accurate illustrations of the partial-birth abortion method, usually used during the fifth and sixth months (and sometimes later), click here.


A hysterotomy or Caesarean section abortion is used in the last trimester. The womb is entered by surgery through the wall of the abdomen. This abortion procedure parallels a Caesarean section live delivery except that the baby is killed in the uterus or allowed to die from neglect if he or she is not dead upon removal. Because the "complication" of a live birth is a significant risk with this method, many abortionists prefer the more "effective" partial-birth abortion procedure. As with any major surgery this abortion method has inherent risks and a potentially painful recovery for the mother.

For more information about these abortion methods, look to these sources from which we compiled this information:

Alcorn, Randy, ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments, Multnomah Press, Portland OR, 1994

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR, 05/95, p. 29, Table 3.

Guttmacher, Alan, Family Planning Perspectives, May/June 1994, Vol. 26, p. 101

National Right to Life Committee, Choose Life, "Pro-Life Leaders Protest New Abortion Drug Duo," September-October, 1995. Seachrist, Lisa.

The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, (1973).

Willke, J.C., M.D. and Mrs., Abortion Questions and Answers, Hayes Publishing Co., Cincinnati, OH, 1990.

Back to Top

More Information about Partial Birth Abortion

Is a partial-birth abortion ever the only way to preserve a mother's physical health?

Pro-abortion advocacy groups have made strenuous efforts to persuade the public that partial-birth abortions are necessary to protect the lives or health of pregnant women, and many have uncritically accepted this claim at face value. However, these claims are coming under increasingly sharp challenge from prestigious medical experts.

At a briefing on Capitol Hill, PHACT member Dr. Curtis Cook, an ob/gyn perinatologist with the West Michigan Perinatal and Genetic Diagnostic Center, said of partial-birth abortion: “It is never necessary to preserve the life or the fertility of the mother, and may in fact threaten her health or well-being or future fertility. In my practice, I see these rare, unusual cases that come to most generalists' offices once in a lifetime - they all come into our office. We see these every day....The presence of fetal disabilities or fetal anomalies are not a reason to have a termination of pregnancy to preserve the life of the mother - they do not threaten the life of the mother in any way....[and] where these rare instances do occur, they do not require the death of the baby or the fetus prior to the completion of the delivery.”

How often are partial-birth abortions performed?

According to Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, and other sources, it appears that Partial-Birth Abortions are performed 3,000 to 5,000 times annually. (Even those numbers may be low.) Based on published interviews with numerous abortionists and interviews with Fitzsimmons, the "vast majority" of partial-birth abortions are performed in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, on healthy babies of healthy mothers. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reported 9,865 abortions were performed after 21 weeks gestation for selected states in 1997, the most recent statistics available. Second and third trimester abortions are being performed in the US in large numbers. Let's work together to end partial-birth abortion by giving women and unborn children better medical choices.

Selective Abortion

With the advance of pre-natal testing, it is possible for a pregnant mother to know not only the gender of her unborn child but also many other physical characteristics. For example, a physician could determine if the unborn child has certain medical conditions - diseases, malformations, organ problems, etc. This kind of pre-natal testing can be profoundly helpful in treating some conditions in utero or in preparing parents and medical personnel for the birth of a child with potentially major medical challenges.

Unfortunately, in our abortion-on-demand culture, pre-natal testing is also used on behalf of medicalized “search and destroy” missions in which children with disabilities are identified and killed in the womb by the violence of abortion. So-called “selective abortion” takes several different forms.

In the case of multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.), doctors sometimes identify one or several of the “weaker” children and kill them to reduce the number of children born.

Abortion is also used eugenically to discriminate against and kill pre-born babies who are handicapped.

In some places (areas of rural China and India, for example), selective abortion is practiced to kill unborn girls who are aborted for reasons of gender discrimination. These are called sex-selection abortions.

Back to Top

What is an abortifacient?

By J. C. Willke MD

Contraception, abortifacient - what's the difference?  Well, on the face of it, it's rather simple.  A contraceptive, properly so-called, prevents human life from beginning.  The laws of our land permit contraceptive use in all 50 states.  Certain types are sold only on prescription, others without prescriptions over the counter.  Substantial portions of our federal tax monies in the last two decades have been spent for the promotion of contraceptive education and contraceptive use - particularly among teenage and poverty groups.    

An abortifacient can also be simply defined.  It is a drug or device that causes an abortion within the first one or two weeks of a human's life.  An abortifacient acts after human life has begun and produces an early abortion.  The Roe vs. Wade and more recent Casey Supreme Court decisions, which legalized abortion in all of our states, for social reasons, for the full nine months of pregnancy, obviously also legalized it in the very first weeks.  Abortifacients, which had been outlawed in every state since the Civil War, are now legal in every state.  So far, so simple.    

But now we get into a cloudy area.  The intrauterine device is advertised in our medical journals as a "contraceptive."  The morning-after pill, or shot, is advertised as a "contraceptive."  The contraceptive pill, which also at times produces micro-abortions, is also advertised as a "contraceptive." To say the least, this blurs the distinction between contraceptives and abortifacients and confuses people.    

In the early 1960s, officials from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology teamed up with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and they simply redefined the word "conception."  They said it would no longer be the time of union of sperm and ovum, but rather would be the time, one week later, when this new human plants inside the lining of the mother's womb.  "Fertilization" would still be the word used for the time of union of sperm and ovum.  The interesting thing was, though, that no one knew of this change except an inner circle of medical and drug people.  And so what has happened?  Well, just what they planned.    

Today a physician can truthfully call the IUD a "contraceptive," and mean that it prevents implantation in the wall of the uterus, while his patient, hearing him use the word "contraceptive" will understand it to mean "the prevention of the union of sperm and ovum."  And so, presto!  An abortifacient is called a "contraceptive," and everybody is fooled.  A classic example of double speak, or the perversion of language.    

That slight of hand definition change happened 30 years ago.  Today only a few physicians know that many so-called “contraceptives” really act as abortifacients.