Biology 103
2000 Second Web Report
On Serendip

Abortion - Methods and Procedures

Srabonti Ali

Out of the five million women in the USA who get pregnant, half of them do not want their babies, and about 1.2 million of them get abortions. (1) What exactly is an abortion? Plainly speaking an abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. It can happen naturally, while the embryo is developing, which is more commonly known as a miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion. An induced abortion is when the woman decides that she does not want the baby and then has the fetus or embryo removed from her body either surgically or medically. (1)

There are many reasons why a woman would want to end her pregnancy. Many teenagers or women get pregnant by accident before they are actually ready to take the responsibility of being a parent. On the other hand some women feel like they have enough children and do not want anymore. Because of societal pressures, a woman may want to get rid of the baby mainly because she does not want to deal with the repercussions of being branded as a woman who has had sex before marriage. Some women feel that they do not have enough money to provide for a baby and (if they are unmarried) do not want to raise the child on her own without any help. A lot of times, either the woman's health, or the baby's health is in danger and therefore, she would be better off aborting the child. And finally, many women who are victims of rape and incest get abortions. (1)

As I mentioned before there are two ways to terminate a pregnancy, surgically and medically. In a medical abortion a woman can either take the drugs Methotrexate and Misoprostol, or the drug commonly known as RU-486 (Mifepristone) and Misoprostol. Methotrexate inhibits the growth of developing cells and Misoprostol contracts the uterus in order to force out the pregnancy. (10)Different statistics say different things as to how long the actual abortion takes. Around 50-80% of the women abort on the same day that they take the Misoprostol. ((1, 10))

The RU-486 Pill, or Mifepristone is a steroid hormone invented by Dr. Etienne-Emile Baulieu in 1980. The drug is named after the pharmaceutical company that Dr. Etienne-Emile Baulieu works for, Roussel-Uclaf. The pill works by binding progesterone (which is needed to complete the process of a pregnancy) in the woman's uterus and therefore inhibiting it. This causes the lining of the uterus to break down and then the woman begins to menstruate. With the combination of RU-486 and the Misoprostol statistics show that about 95.5% abortions are successful. (3)

If for some reason a medical abortion does not work, a woman has the option of getting a surgical abortion. There are a number methods or procedures that a woman can go through, depending on which stage of her pregnancy she is in. Manual Aspiration is usually done in the early stages of a woman's pregnancy (from when she first knows she is pregnant to about 10 weeks after your last period). (1)The surgeon sucks the embryonic tissue out of the uterus with the aid of a syringe. (10)Another procedure is known as Vacuum Aspiration. The surgeon numbs the cervix and then expands it. The surgeon then inserts a hollow plastic tube in the hole and empties the uterus. (1, 10)The procedure used during the second trimester of a woman's pregnancy is known as Dilation and Evacuation. The woman must come to the clinic for two days in order to successfully complete this procedure. During the first day the woman's cervix is expanded by inserting a sterile fiber which absorbs the moisture in the body. Once the cervix is expanded the procedure is finished by the use of suction and forceps. A procedure used mainly in the third trimester and for "doomed pregnancies" is known as Dilation and Extraction. The procedure keeps the woman's cervix intact by keeping the opening small. The fetal head is then disintegrated and then passed through the cervix. Dilation and Curettage (D&C) is not really used any more for aborting unwanting pregnancies anymore. It basically involves scraping the wall of the uterus with a curette to disengage the placenta from the uterus. (2, 10) Finally there is a procedure called Induction in which a saline solution is injected into the amniotic fluid which the fetus injects. (2, 10)One of the websites I looked up said that this in turn poisoned and burned the fetus to death (2)and the other one that I looked up (which was an online clinic) was not clear on what happened after the fluid was injected into the body. (10)So because I am not sure what exactly this does and I do not want to make any assumptions as it was hard enough for me to write this paper on a completely factual basis.

I wanted to know what exactly the procedures for abortion were. However when I started my research I realized very quickly that I couldn't really find anything which was not biased in some way, shape or form. In one of the articles I read, the wording was such that I could not finish reading because it made the procedures of abortion seem so barbaric and so terrible. On the other hand other websites I found hardly had any information on the actual methods themselves and instead had way too much information on being pro choice or pro life. It really got annoying after a while because I don't really know how much of the information that I have gotten off the web is factual, and how much of it is just some man who wanted me to believe his side was right. I felt like I was being preached to from all sides. So although my questions were answered I kind of felt like I was being cheated because I did not really know whether I was being told the truth and whether certain facts were being hidden from me in order to make me lean towards one side. I did not want my paper to turn into a debate about being pro-choice or pro-life so I really tried to stay away from websites which were more concerned with the issue of choice than the bare facts. It was hard, and I do not know if I was completely successful in my report, especially because I myself am a non-science person and can not really tell the difference. I came to the conclusion that I had before: that both sides have their valid points and both sides have good reason to believe what they do.

WWW Sources

1) Choosing Abortion - Questions and Answers

2) Abortion, Counseling, Information, Procedures, Abortion and Cancer

3) RU-486 The Abortion Pill

4) Abortion Clinics Online

5) Abortion: All Sides to the Issue

6) Abortion and Reproductive Rights

7) The RU-486 Files

8) Abortion

9) Abortion Ethics

10) The Hope Clinic for Women

11) Abortion

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