Partial birth abortion

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Partial birth abortion [Intact Dilation and Extraction Surgery/IDX]

The Procedure

Partial birth abortion is committed on babies after 21 weeks gestation, in a three - day process.

On the first day the mother's cervix is prepped, anesthetized and dilated to 9 - 11 mm. Between five and seven dilapan hydroscopic dilators are placed in the cervix to increase the dilation.

On the second day the dilators are removed, the cervix is sterilized and anesthetized, and between twenty-five to thirty dilapan hydroscopic dilators are placed in her cervix.

On the third day, the dilapans are removed and the cervix is sterilized and anesthetized. 10 IU Pitocin [a mammalian hormone that works as a neurotransmitter, and induces labour] is injected intramuscularly into the mother. The cervix is gripped by a tenaculum [a grasping device that holds the cervix in place for the abortion], an ultrasound is used to check the orientation of the foetus, and a large forcep is pushed through the cervix and vagina canals into the uterus.

The abortionist uses the forceps to deliver the entire baby, but leaves its head inside the cervix. The baby's body is spine-side up, and the abortionist uses his hands to hold the baby's body and feel, with a pair of curved, blunt, Metzenbaum scissors the place where the spine meets the baby's head.

The abortionist then forces the scissors into the back of the baby's skull, and once they are inside the skull, he spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening. Then, the abortionist withdraws the scissors and uses a suction catheter [surgical vacuum] to suck out the contents of the baby's skull. Finally, with the catheter still in place, the baby's head is removed from the cervix and the vacuum is used to remove the placenta, and suction the inside of the uterine cavity.[1]

Statistics for NZ

In 2003, 2.03% of induced abortions were done between weeks 16 to 19, and 0.56% were done over 20 weeks.[2]

Reasons for Partial birth abortions in NZ

Partial birth abortions are performed in the 2nd or 3rd Trimester. Babies in the first Trimester can be aborted by other methods; the D&X procedure is committed because the mother's cervix must be dilated enough to allow her baby's head to be expelled. The most common justifications for the abortions committed in these Trimesters are:

  • The baby is dead.
  • The baby is alive, but continued pregnancy would place the woman's life in severe danger.
  • The baby is alive, but continued pregnancy could damage the woman's health and/or disable her.
  • The baby is so malformed that it can never gain consciousness and will die shortly after birth. Many which fall into this category have developed a very severe form of hydrocephalus.
  • The baby has Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome Babies and Partial birth Abortion

Usually, Down Syndrome can not be successfully tested for until the third Trimester. Therefore, babies with Down Syndrome are among the most likely to be targeted by abortion. Currently, 90% of all Down Syndrome babies are aborted.

  • Down Syndrome Screening

As of February 2009, New Zealand's 'Health Services' began to offer 'safer' Down Syndrome Screening, based on the recommendations from the Antenatal Down Syndrome Screening Advisory Group.[3]

In the 2007 Report of the Antenatal Down Syndrome Screening Advisory Group to the National Screening Unit, the Advisory Group stated that the purpose of the proposed system of reform in screening was:

"to provide pregnant women, who choose to have the tests, with information about whether the fetus is likely to have Down syndrome or other fetal anomaly"[4]

..."However, the effect of any screening programme would almost inevitably be to decrease the incidence of Down syndrome. This will effectively mean there is less opportunity for interaction with children and adults who have Down syndrome (although there would be little effect on the overall prevalence of disability), which may influence society's views."[4]


  1. Dilation and Extraction for Late Second Trimester Abortion, 13 Sept., 1992 (accessed on 23 August 2010)
  2. Statistics NZ: Hot Off The Press: Abortions Year Ended December 2004 (accessed on 23 August 2010)
  3. NZ Herald: Safer Down syndrome tests now available, 9 Feb., 2009 (accessed on 24 August 2010)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ministry of Health website: Antenatal Down Syndrome Screening in NZ - 2007, April 2007 (accessed on 24 August 2010)