RU-486 Mifepristone (Abortion Pill)
Used: Within 4 to 7 weeks after your Last Menstrual Period (LMP).
This drug is only approved for use in women up to the 49th day after their last menstrual period. The procedure usually requires three office visits. On the first visit, the woman is given pills to cause the death of the embryo. Two days later, if the abortion has not occurred, she is given a second drug which causes cramps to expel the embryo. The last visit is to determine if the procedure has been completed. RU486 will not work in the case of an ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy is an abnormal pregnancy that occurs anywhere outside of the womb. Primarily, this occurs in the fallopian tubes, and left untreated, could prove fatal to the mother. Ectopic pregnancies are always fatal to the baby.
Manual Vacuum Aspiration
Used: Up to 7 weeks after LMP
This surgical abortion is done early in the pregnancy, up until 7 weeks after the woman's last menstrual period. A long, thin tube is inserted into the uterus. A large syringe is attached to the tube and the embryo is suctioned out.
Used: Between 6 and 14 weeks after LMP
This is the most common surgical abortion procedure. Because the baby is larger, the doctor must first stretch open the cervix using metal rods. Opening the cervix may be painful, so local or general anesthesia is typically needed. After the cervix is stretched open, the doctor inserts a hard plastic tube into the uterus, then connects this tube to a suction machine. The suction pulls the fetus' body apart and out of the uterus. The doctor may also use a loop-shaped knife called a curette to scrape the fetus and fetal parts out of the uterus.
Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)
Used: Between 13 and 24 weeks after LMP
Because this abortion is performed at a later point in the pregnancy, the cervix must be stretched open far enough to allow the doctor to remove the fetus's head. At this point in the fetal development, the baby is too large to be broken up by suction alone to pass through the suction tubing. Instead, the fetus is dismembered and the fetal parts are pulled out of the uterus with forceps. Then a curette [Link for definition] is used to scrape out any remaining tissue.
Dilation and Extraction (D&X) (partial-birth abortion)
Used: From 20 weeks after LMP to full-term.
This procedure takes three days. During the first two days, the cervix is stretched open using thin absorbent rods made of seaweed, and medication is given for pain. On the third day, the abortion doctor uses ultrasound to locate the legs of the fetus. Grasping a leg with forceps, the doctor delivers the living fetus until only the head remains in the birth canal. Next, scissors are inserted into the base of the skull to create an opening. A suction catheter is placed into the opening to remove the brain. The skull collapses and the fetus is removed.