What actually happens during an abortion after 20 weeks?
It’s a very safe, straight-forward surgical procedure. Abortion even at second trimester is safer than birth. There are two techniques used. The most common is a surgical D&E (dilation and evacuation), which happens to 98% of women. Doctors open the cervix and remove the pregnancy.
The second technique is induction of labor, which 2% of women choose. Most people don’t want to go through a birth for an abortion though. D&E requires general anesthesia. Induction involves other kinds of pain medicine, but there aren’t a lot of places that do this procedure very well.
What happens once the fetus is removed?
There are routine procedures for disposal. Sometimes my patients request a burial, and we get a funeral home involved. Other times it’s more like a cremation or incineration that happens. If the women want to see the fetus, we do a labor induction, and if that’s the case, we respect their wishes.
Why are there so many mixed messages about what happens?
People have a lot of fantasy ideas about the surgery and what happens. Obviously, a D&E is not the same as a birth. The point is to try to remove everything as safely and gently as possible so the woman’s health is preserved. Dilation takes place overnight and then instruments like forceps and suction are used to remove the fetus. Things don’t always come out all together or stay together like you think they might though. Even during a labor induction, the fetus doesn’t come out alive because the labor induction process usually stops the heartbeat before its delivered.
What else do you want people to know about abortions after 20 weeks?
We go to great lengths to ensure that people get what they need. That’s part of our job. The way that we do these procedures has evolved over time. I think it’s unfortunate that there’s so much misinformation out there about this. It’s rare, but it’s a very, very necessary service. These things are very stressful and upsetting for women, and people deserve good medical care. They don’t deserve to be misled or humiliated for their choices.