Physical and Psychological Complications of Abortion

Part 4: Procedural Risks & Complications

Procedures: There are two categories of abortions: surgical and chemical.


1. Suction-aspiration. Up to 3 months. 80% of all abortions. Commonly known as vacuum abortions. A hollow plastic tube is used to dismember and suck the baby out of the mother and into a bottle. The instrument used for this abortion is 10-29 times more powerful than a home vacuum cleaner.

2. Dilation and Curettage (D&C). 2nd and 3rd month. This abortion is similar to the suction method, except a surgical knife is inserted into the womb and is used to cut the baby apart. The baby is scraped out through the cervix. This abortion should not be confused with a therapeutic D&C, which is done on a non-pregnant woman.

3. Dilation and Evacuation (D&E). Usually up to 4 months (sometimes more). Forceps are inserted, grasping the parts of the baby's body. These parts are torn off and removed from the mother. After 12 weeks the skull must be crushed by forceps for removal.

4. Saline abortion. 4 to 7 months. A strong salt solution (saline) is injected into the womb. The baby breathes and swallows the solution which slowly poisons and suffocates her while it slowly burns her skin. The child usually dies 1 to 2 hours later. The mother goes into labor and delivers a dead or dying baby.

5. Prostaglandin abortion. 4 to 8 months. Prostaglandins are hormones needed for birth. Injecting them into the womb induces premature birth of a baby too young to survive outside the womb. Usually the child dies during the trauma of the premature labor.

6. Hysterotomy. 6 to 8 months. This abortion is like a birth by Cesarean section, except the purpose is to kill the baby. An incision is made through the abdomen into the womb. The baby is killed by various means including drowning in a bucket of water, suffocation with the placenta, cutting the cord while the baby is in the uterus depriving her of oxygen, or allowed to die by neglect.

7. Partial birth abortion or Dilation and Extraction. (D&X). 4 1/2 to 8 months. Newest method in use. Developed because the "classic" D&E method was "difficult due to the toughness of the fetal tissues at this stage of development," (Dr. Martin Haskell, NAF, 1992). This method was also developed to overcome the "complication" of live birth from the saline, prostaglandin and hysterotomy abortions. A D&X abortion involves completely delivering a baby's body except for the head. While the head is still inside the mother, a sharp instrument is forced into the back of the baby's head to make an opening for the insertion of an instrument to suction the brain out of the skull. After the brain is removed, the skull is crushed and the rest of the baby's body is delivered.

What happens to the aborted babies? Aborted babies are often dumped into plastic bags for disposal in the trash or sold by the bag for fetal transplant and experimentation. Some are run through a garbage disposal. Live fetuses have been subjected to grisly experiments--bodies have been dissected, chests sliced open to observe heart action, heads cut off for bizarre purposes. Babies have been conceived and aborted for the unproved purpose of using their cells to treat adults with diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. (John Wilke, Abortion Questions & Answers Cincinnati: Hayes Publishing Co., 1988 Chapter 25; Randy Alcorn, ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments Portland: Multinomah Press, 1992. p188.)

Does the baby feel pain during an abortion? "As early as 8-10 weeks gestation, and definitely by thirteen and a half weeks, the human fetus experiences pain." (V. Collins, MD and Diplomatic and Fellow, American Board of Anesthesiologists.) Dr. Collins was one of 26 doctors from around the country, including pain specialists and two past presidents of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who sent a letter in 1984 to Ronald Reagan saying: "Mr. President, in drawing attention to the capability of the human fetus to feel pain, you stand on firmly established ground." (Wilke, p.64 and 69).

Physical complications with surgical abortions.

Over 100 potential physical complications have been associated with abortion. Some complications are immediately apparent while others reveal themselves days, months and even as much as 10-15 years later.

Immediate and short-term risks:

Infection. The damage can be mild or fatal. For the free standing abortion facility, with far inferior care, the number of infections will be at least double that of a hospital environment. (C. Gassner & C. Ballard, American Journal OB/GYN, vol. 48, p. 716).

The typical infection involving the woman's reproductive organs (uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries) is pelvic inflammatory disease or PID. PID is often difficult to manage and often leads to sterility, even with prompt treatment. Some women have serious chronic pain the rest of their lives because of PID. Some women even have pain every time they have sex because of PID. (M. Spence, "PID: Detection and Treatment," Sexually Transmitted Disease Bulletin, Johns Hopkins University, vol. 3, no 1, February 1983).

(PID is not a sexually transmitted disease but is a common complication from infection from abortion and STD's such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.)

Perforation of uterus. During suction, D&C and D&E abortions, the abortionist is operating blindly, by sense of feel. If he manipulates the surgical instrument too easily or too forcibly, he can puncture the woman's uterus and even her bladder or bowel.

On February 23, 1996 the National Right to Life News reported the story of a young Miami, FL woman who died after a raging blood infection overwhelmed her body. The infection was caused when the doctor performing her abortion punctured her uterus (at least twice). The infection caused gangrene to attack her hands and legs turning her limbs black. In an effort to save her life, doctors amputated her feet and portions of her legs. She died four days later. The abortion clinic owners, doctor, and staff disappeared taking their medical records and delaying the families search for justice.

Failure to extract all "products of conception." Specifically, if a limb or skull is left in the uterus, severe infection may result, causing severe cramping and bleeding. If infection becomes too advanced or is persistent, a hysterectomy--or removal of the womb--will be necessary.

Embolisms. An embolism is an obstruction of a blood vessel by a foreign substance such as air, fat, tissue, or blood clot. Childbirth is a normal process, and the body is well prepared for the birth of the child and the separation and expulsion of the placenta. Surgical abortion is an abnormal process and slices the unripe placenta from the wall of the uterus into which its roots have grown. This sometimes causes the fluid around the baby, or other pieces of tissue or blood clots, to be forced into the mother's circulation. These then travel to her lungs, causing damage and occasionally death. (W. Cates et al., American Journal OB/GYN, vol. 132, p. 16

Usually, such a blockage is minor and goes unnoticed and is eventually dissolved. But if the block occurs in the brain or heart, it may result in a stroke or heart attack. This condition may occur anywhere from 2-50 days after an abortion and is a relatively frequent major complication.

Bleeding (hemorrhaging). Some women need blood transfusions after an abortion.

Anesthetic complications. Due to the rich blood supply around the uterus during pregnancy, local and general anesthesia during abortions is risky. Convulsion, heart arrest and death are not an uncommon result because outpatient abortion clinics generally have little equipment and expertise to deal with it.

Other complications. In a D&E, abortionists have been known to mistakenly grab a woman's uterus with the forceps and pull it inside out. In a few recorded cases involving suction-aspiration abortions, abortionists have inadvertently sucked out several feet of the mother's intestines in a matter of seconds.

Death. We often hear of the "thousands" of women who died each year in the United States before abortion became legal in 1973. The fact is that in the entire year of 1972, only 39 women died from illegal abortions. (US Dept. of Health and Human Services)

Today, women do die from legal abortions. For example, the pro-abortion Chicago Suns Times ran a multi-issue expose in 1978. They discovered 12 mothers who had died from abortions. The deaths had previously gone unreported. They also reported abortions being done on non-pregnant women as well as some being performed by incompetent medical persons in unsterile conditions. (Wilke's book p.102-103) It is possible that only 5-10% of all deaths resulting from legal abortion are reported as abortion related. (John Ankerberg and John Weldon. When Does Life Begin. Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, Publishers (1989) p 58).

"What the Supreme Court legalized in some clinics in Chicago is the highly profitable, and very dangerous back-room abortion." (Special reprint, Chicago Sun Times, Field Enterprises, 1978)

In a study done by abortionists themselves, out of 1,182 suction abortions, they reported 9.5% of their patients required blood transfusions, 4.2% suffered cervical lacerations, 1.2% had uterine perforations, and 27% developed infections. (J.A. Stalworthy, et. Al., "Legal Abortion: A Critical Assessment of its Risks," The Lancet, December 1971).

Long-Range Risks:

Women who may appear physically unaffected by an abortion after a one year follow-up may be found to be severely affected by abortion as many as 10-15 years later.

Ectopic pregnancies. If the scar tissue covers the openings from the fallopian tube to the uterus only partially, then the sperm will be able to reach the egg in the tube. Conceptions occurs, and fertilized egg (baby) begins to grow and move toward the uterus. The fertilized egg is too large to get from the fallopian tube to the uterus opening because of the scar tissue blocking part of the opening. The baby continues to grow inside the tube, eventually causing the tube to burst. If surgery is not done to remove the baby, then the mother will die. There has been a 300% increase in ectopic pregnancies since abortion was legalized. (US Dept. H.H.S., Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, no. 33, no. 15, April 20, 1984--quoted in Willke's book p. 108). Among women who aborted their first pregnancy there was a 500% increase in subsequent ectopic pregnancies. (Chung et al. "Effects of Induced Abortion Complications on Subsequent Reproductive Function" U. of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1981--Wilke p. 109) This is not to say that every woman who experiences tubal pregnancy has had an abortion.

Sterility. Because of such early complications as infections after an abortion, the uterus is often scarred. If the scar tissue covers the opening from the tube to the uterus, then the tiny sperm cannot reach the egg. Fertilization cannot occur.

Cervical incompetence. After infection, damage to the cervix is the next leading cause of post-abortion reproductive problems. Normally the cervix is rigid and tightly closed during pregnancy. However, during abortion the cervix undergoes tremendous stress and is often torn, resulting in permanent weakening. In a later "wanted" pregnancy, this may result in the cervix opening prematurely, resulting in miscarriage or premature birth. For this reason, the chance that a later "wanted" child will die during pregnancy or labor is at least twice as high for previously aborted women. One study shows the risk of premature delivery and second trimester miscarriage increases 10 times for women who have had abortions. Normally 5% of babies are born premature. This rate jumps to 40% on aborted women. (Aborted Women, Silent No More: Twenty Women Share Their Personal Journeys from the Tragedy of Abortion to Restored Wholeness by David C. Reardon p.101 - See the Resouce List in Part 3).

Teenage girls are at increased risk because they have immature cervixes and "run the risk of a difficult and potentially traumatic dilation." (C. Powell, Problems of Adolescent Abortion, Ortho Panel 14, Toronto General Hospital--quoted in Willke's book p.115). In one study of 50 teenage girls who had abortions there were 47 later "wanted" pregnancies. Of these 47 pregnancies 66% ended in defective births, including 19 miscarriages and 7 premature births. Only 34% ended with a full-term delivery of a healthy child. ( See Reardon, p.100-102 and Willke 105-106).

In 1995 Texans United for Life reported the tragic story of a 15-year-old girl who died, accordinng to court records, from an infection caused when the abortionist tore the right side of her cervix. Because the girl had obtained the abortion without her parents' knowledge, for four days she ignored the symptoms of infection - fever, chills, and nausea - hoping they would go away. However, by this time, her infection was massive and she was checked into a hospital where she died a few days later in intensive care.

The hospital doctors reported that if she had received prompt medical attention, this young girl would still be alive today. A few days after her death, the Texas Department of Health (TDH) sent an investigator to the clinic (A-Z Women's Services in Dallas) to look into the matter. Although the TDH has the power to revoke the license of an abortion clinic and according to court documents the investigator found the clinic to be "a serious and immediate threat to the life and health of its patients," business continues as usual at A-Z!

Increased risk of breast cancer. Because of the rapid growth of breast tissue in early pregnancy, a forced (as opposed to the natural cessation of pregnancy caused by miscarriage) premature cessation of pregnancy creates an unnatural condition. Consequently, women who have first trimester abortions face twice the risk of contracting breast cancer as those who miscarry or complete their pregnancies and give birth. (Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, October 1996. See National Right to Life News article "British Medical Journal Documents Abortion/ Breast Cancer Link, November 14, 1996, p 18; and World article "Abortion and Breast Cancer Linked in Report," October 26, 1996, p 18.


Chemical abortions and their complications:

These are not "emergency contraception that prevents pregnancy" as misrepresented by the news media, but in reality abort a pregnancy that's already begun. They are early abortion techniques that kill a human being in her first stages of development.

The morning-after pill. Combined doses of certain birth-control pills, taken up to 72 hours after intercourse blocks the fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus. Morning-after pill complications include severe nausea and vomiting.

RU 486. (Mifepristone or the "abortion pill") Can only be used during the first 7-9 weeks of pregnancy. RU 486 prevents the uptake of progesterone, a hormone that helps to create and maintain the uterine lining which provides nourishment and oxygen for the developing child. The uterine lining begins to break down and slough off, cutting the child off from her basic supply of food, fluids and oxygen. The child shrivels and finally suffocates or starves to death. A prostaglandin given about two days later stimulates uterine contractions to expel the unborn baby. A third visit approximately two weeks later confirms the completion of the abortion. (Although approved by the FDA, production problems and legal troubles has prevented full scale introduction of the "French abortion pill" and put it on hold at the time of this writing October 15, 1997.)

RU486 complications: Severe pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, low heart and blood pressure and prolonged and heavy bleeding. It has been described as "painful, messy and protracted" with "golf ball size clots, steady streams of blood like faucets." (Time Dec. 1994 quoted in NRLN Feb. 23, 1996) During the 2100 patient trial in the US at least one woman lost half of her blood volume and required surgery to save her life. (NRLN, August 21, 1996 p.26) The procedure is so grueling that only 20 percent of women seeking abortions in France get a chemical one even though RU 486 has been available there since 1988 and the price is comparable to surgical abortion. Those who fail to return for their 2-week check up may eventually give birth to children with severe disabilities.

Methotrexate. Can only be used during the first 6-8 weeks of pregnancy. An anti-cancer drug injected into the mother which works very similar to RU 486 by destroying the child's protective environment and depriving the baby of the food, oxygen, and fluids she needs to survive. Usually the child is dead in a matter of days. About a week later, a prostaglandin is given to the mother to expel the dead baby.

Methotrexate complications: Even at the smaller doses used for abortions, Methotrexate can produce severe anemia, ulcers and bone marrow depressions that can be fatal. New York abortionist Don Sloan wrote in an April 8, 1996, letter to the New York Times that "many of us in the 'abortion trade,' as I am, are recoiling at the stark irresponsibility of those who are parading this medication in such cavalier fashion." (NRLN, April 12, 1996, p. 10.)

Complications with all 3 chemical abortions:

Approximately 95 percent of the time the unborn baby dies. In the other 5 percent, the women must undergo a surgical abortion because of the increased risk of birth defects and cancer to the drug-exposed embryo. (World, January 18, 1997, p. 17, and Today's Dallas Woman, January 1996, p. 9).

Psychological complications for the mother from having been the direct hand behind the abortion. A woman's home, where the abortion will take place about half the time, is likely to become an aversive place to her. The most horrible implication is that the mother will actually witness and be an active participant in killing her child. Because it is a self-induced abortion, there is a high probability that she will actually have to deal with the fetal tissue on her own.

Note: Certain forms of so called "contraceptives", specifically the IUD, Norplant and certain lowdose oral contraceptives do not prevent conception but prevent implantation of an already fertilized ovum. (Not all oral contraceptives act this way.) The result is an early abortion, the killing of an already conceived individual. Tragically, many women are not told this by their physicians, and therefore do not make an informed choice about which contraceptive to use. TUFL is not advocating for or against birth control. TUFL does oppose the specific abortion-causing agents above, which are not the same as true contraceptives. True contraceptives do not cause abortions but instead prevent the sperm and egg from coming together to conceive a human life. (Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik, Rites of Life: The Scientific Evidence for Life before Birth, 1983, 152-152, cited in Alcorn, p.116).

Note: Fetal reduction or downloading is routinely used to abort a child when the mother is carrying twins or triplets. If a woman decides she only wanted one baby or there are "possible risks" of one of the children having a deformity, through the use of ultrasound one baby is selected for death, i.e. reduction. Fetal reduction is performed with ultrasound and a thin needle inserted through the abdomen into the womb. Potassium chloride is injected through the needle directly into the heart of the "selected" baby and the heart stops.

  • Part 1: Post-Abortion Syndrome
  • Part 2: The Tasks of Healing
  • Part 3: Resource List
  • Part 5: The Second Victims of Abortion
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