What is Abortion?
To begin any discussion, there must be a common understanding of what is being discussed. The purpose of this article in the series (Series Introduction Here) is to help create that understanding and possibly help educate the reader. This article is not intended to wound anyone, but the subject matter is very heavy.
A Working Definition
If you were to look up a definition of abortion, you may come across the phrase “loss of a pregnancy …” without reference to the reasons why that pregnancy was lost. That is because natural rejections or miscarriages are sometimes referred to as “spontaneous abortions.” For the purpose of our articles and all of the information we will present, we will not be referring to these, but rather exclusively to “induced abortions.” An induced abortion is an intentional act aimed at the destruction of a human life at any point between fertilization and birth. So when we say “abortion,” this is what we are referring to.
Limiting the Focus for Now
There are two other things to consider before you read, “What is an abortion?” that we will not discuss in this article: abortifacients and therapeutic abortions. Among the induced abortions, there is a difference between therapeutic abortions (ectopic pregnancies, maternal cancer, maternal heart disease, other health of the mother issues) and “convenience” abortions (eugenic and “family planning”). Abortifacients, a drug that causes an abortion, commonly called “the Morning After Pill” or the Plan-B pill, can “work” after conception and before implantation – which would fit our working definition of abortion. We will talk about these issues in our next article, “The Ethics of Abortion.” For now, we’ll discuss different procedures for an abortion, which are commonly agreed upon.
There are two major types of induced abortion used in the US today: surgical and medication induced.
There are many types of induced surgical abortions, but the majority of them performed in the first trimester involve strong suction. If a surgical abortion is done during the second trimester, additional steps may be necessary to section the baby before removing via suction. In third trimester abortions, similar steps are taken, but the baby is removed by instruments or by hand. Surgical abortions are done at abortion facilities and in some hospitals. Much of the political debate has been around the standard of care that a facility must meet in order to perform these procedures.
Medication induced abortions are done with a medication called RU-486 (mifepristone). Mifepristone works by prohibiting the synthesis and functionality of progesterone, a hormone that is necessary to sustain early pregnancy. When the role of progesterone is compromised, the uterus contracts, the endometrium becomes hostile to the implanted embryo, and the cervix softens to allow expulsion. Most commonly this is followed up with a dose of misoprostol that is used to induce or expel the baby. Currently, there is political discussion in the US around reducing the restrictions and expanding the availability of medication induced abortions.
Much more detail could be given on the abortion procedures, but we are limiting ourselves for these articles. Descriptions that are more detailed can be found here: https://abort73.com/abortion/abortion_techniques/.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Our hearts break every time we think about the loss of life because of abortion, and all that we ask is that you do not turn away. We will continue the series of articles in two weeks. “The Ethics of Abortion” will be released on October 24th. If you have any questions or comments, please email me.
– Brian Current, Life Centers’ Director of Community Partnerships