Abortion Methods (statistics)

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How are abortions performed today?

The Ohio Department of Health collects various statistics on abortions performed in that state. In their latest report (published in 2001, covering abortions performed in 1999), they included some fairly detailed statistics on the methods of abortion used.

While these numbers were collected only for Ohio abortions, it is likely that they are fairly typical of the rest of the United States.

These numbers are all derived from self-reporting by abortionists. The methods are briefly described below.

Method Count
Suction Curretage 34089
Sharp Curretage 791
Dilation & Extraction 328
Dilation & Evactuation 2596
Saline Instillation 8
Prostaglandin Instillation 28
Other 505
Non-surgical 62
Not reported 44

Of the "other":

Descriptions of abortion methods

Suction curretage
The abortion dilates the woman's cervix and inserts a tube with a sharp edge on the tip. The other end of the tube is connected to a suction device, similar to a home vacuum cleaner but much more powerful. Between the sharp edge and the force of the suction, the developing baby is torn apart and the pieces sucked out through the tube.

This method is usually used for first-trimester abortions.

Dilation and Extraction (D&X)
The unborn baby is partially delivered feet first, until just the head remains inside the uterus. Then a hole is punched in the back of the skull with a sharp object and the brains are suctioned out. Once the baby is dead, the head is also pulled out of the uterus.

This method is usually used for late second-trimester and third-trimester abortions.

This method is the primary target of laws against partial birth abortion.

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)
A seaweed-based substance called "laminaria" is inserted into the cervix to dilate it, usually overnight. The next day forceps with sharp metal teeth are inserted and used to twist and tear off the unborn baby's limbs and remove them piece by piece. The head is usually too large to be removed whole and must be crushed.

This method is usually used for second-trimester abortions.

Saline Instillation (Salt Poisoning)
Salt water is injected into the womb through the mother's abdomen. The unborn baby swallows this fluid and is poisoned by it. Within 24 hours the mother goes into labor and delivers a dead baby.

This method is usually used for second- and third- rimester abortions.

This method is very rarely used today because it is dangerous to the mother. It is also disliked because it is unreliable, and the baby would often be delivered premature but alive and seriously injured.

Prostaglandin Instillation
A chemical of a class known as "prostaglandins" is injected into the womb. It causes the mother to go into early labor with very strong contractions. These contractions crush the baby, which combined with the premature delivery is usually fatal.

This is a general term that primarily includes abortions induced by drugs, such as Methotrexate or RU-486. Some of these directly poison the developing baby; others interfere with or cut off the supply of nutrients.

There are two surprising things about these numbers. (Surprising to this author, anyway.)

One is that I was under the impression that saline instillation was no longer used in the United States, yet it turns up on this report. The numbers here are small, but it is apparently still being done.

The other is the large number of "other" procedures. I am not sure what is included in this total. A closer look at the numbers shows that over 60% of these "others" were done in one county, which had a fairly large number of abortions but still less than 10% of the total for the state. Perhaps there are one or two abortionists in this county using some other method?

It is also interesting to note the fairly large number of partial birth abortions. During the early debates over parital birth abortion, pro-choice organizations frequently said that the issue was overblown because there were only 100 or so done in the entire country each year. Clearly this was not true, as abortionists in Ohio freely admitted to committing over 300 of them in this state alone. While the abortionist who invented the procedure carries out his trade in Ohio, it appears that he personally accounted for only a modest percentage of this total.

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Posted 16 Apr 2001.

Copyright 2001 by Pregnant Pause
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