Before you look away:
The controversial photo is NOT a picture of an abortion.
Instead, it is a picture of saving life. Look closely. The remarkable photo was taken in 1999 during an in-utero surgical procedure performed to correct spina bifida. The small hand that can be seen belongs to baby Samuel Armus at 21-weeks gestational age. Please read photographer Michael Clancy’s extraordinary account of what happened in the O.R. that day in The Story Behind the Picture.
While this image is a phenomenal window for us into life in the womb–even before what is considered the age of viability–abortion continues to thrive with methods of taking precious life actually increasing.
Below is a list of the different types of abortion techniques that are legal in the United States.
“Very Early” Abortion
Designed to be used as soon as a pregnancy can be chemically detected. After widening the cervix, the abortionist inserts into the uterus a long flexible suction tube, which is attached to a vacuum syringe. Using ultrasound, the abortionist locates the tiny human embryo in the womb and applies suction to tear the developing baby from the uterine wall.
Suction Aspiration/Vacuum Curettage
A powerful suction tube with a sharp cutting edge is inserted into the womb through the dilated cervix. The suction dismembers the body of the developing baby and tears the placenta from the wall of the uterus, sucking the contents into a collection bottle.
Dilatation and Curettage (D&C)
Here, the cervix is dilated or stretched to permit the insertion of a loop shaped steel knife. The body of the baby is cut into pieces, removed, and the placenta is scraped from the uterine wall.
RU 486 (Also known as Mifepristone)
The RU-486 procedure requires at least three trips to the abortion facility. In her first visit, the woman is given a dose of Mifepristone pills, which block the action of progesterone, the natural hormone vital to maintaining the rich nutrient lining of the uterus. The developing baby starves as the nutrient lining disintegrates.
At a second visit 36 to 48 hours later, the woman is given a dose of artificial prostaglandins, usually Misoprostol pills, which initiates uterine contractions to expel the body of the embryonic baby. The woman is then sent home to proceed with contractions. It is recommended to expel the baby into a toilet.
A third visit about 2 weeks later determines if the abortion has successfully taken place. At least 4% must return for surgical abortions.
This is another multi-visit procedure. In her first visit, a woman receives an intramuscular injection of Methotrexate, a powerful drug anti-metabolite which is often used to fight cancer. Methotrexate attacks the fast growing cells of the trophoblast; the tissue surrounding the embryo that eventually gives rise to the placenta. As the trophoblast breaks down, the baby dies as he/she is deprived of needed food, oxygen and fluids.
A Prostaglandin vaginal suppository given three to seven days later triggers expulsion of the child from the woman’s uterus. Sometimes this occurs within the next few hours, but often a second dose of the prostaglandin is required. Those shown to be still pregnant in later visits (at least 1 woman in 25) are given surgical abortions.
Dilatation and Evacuation (D&E)
Forceps with sharp metal jaws are use to grasp parts of the developing baby, which are then twisted and torn away. This continues until the child’s entire body is removed from the womb. Because the baby’s skull has often hardened to bone by this time, the skull must sometimes be compressed or crushed to facilitate removal.
After fluid is withdrawn, chemicals are injected into the amniotic sac to kill the baby and initiate contractions. Saline poisons the child and burns the baby’s skin. Other methods such as Urea and Prostaglandins mainly work by initiating violent contractions, but are generally less effective than saline. Sometimes chemicals such as potassium chloride or digoxin are injected directly in to the baby’s heart, triggering cardiac arrest.
Congress banned this procedure and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on 4/18/07)
Used in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, and sometimes later.
Guided by the ultrasound, the abortionist reaches into the uterus, grabs the unborn baby’s leg with forceps, and pulls the baby into the birth canal, except for the head, which is deliberately kept just inside the womb. (At this point in the abortion, the baby is alive.) Then the abortionist punctures the base of the baby’s skull with long surgical scissors or other instrument. He enlarges the wound and inserts a catheter (tube), which is connected to a powerful suction machine that sucks the baby’s brain out. The abortionist then withdraws the now-collapsed skull from the uterus.
Similar to the Caesarean Section, this method is generally used if chemical methods such as salt poisoning or prostaglandins fail. Incisions are made in the abdomen and uterus and the baby, placenta, and amniotic sac are removed.