The term induced abortion means the intentional termination of a pregnancy through medical intervention.
There is also a spontaneous natural termination of pregnancy, known as a miscarriage. ‘A miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) is the expulsion of the product of conception before the 16th week of amenorrhoea’. (from: diagnostisch kompas 2005, Dutch Health Care Insurance Board (CVZ). Often parts of the gestational sac, placenta or the foetus remain at the back of the womb, resulting in the sustained loss of blood. A curettage will then be needed in order to ‘clean’ the womb, the abortion curettage (dilation and curettage, suction curettage or vacuum aspiration). This term is used to indicate the contrast with a normal curettage, whereby for instance a small polyp is removed from the womb.
Technique for an induced abortion
When the doctor has decided to perform an induced abortion, the pregnant woman is admitted to hospital and is first given medication via an infusion that kills the foetus. The abortion curettage is then performed under a form of anaesthetic, and then, depending on the gestational age, the foetus is sucked out or (after the 13th week of pregnancy) it is removed from the womb by means of a type of tongs.
Morning after pill
An abortion can also be induced by a hormone preparation, the so-called morning after pill. The name has been borrowed from the most important indication areas: after (nocturnal) sexual intercourse without the use of adequate contraception, a pregnancy that has probably commenced and that is certainly unwanted is terminated by a drug preparation that should be taken with 24 hours of conception in order to have the required effect. The working is complicated, and among other things relies on preventing a possibly fertilised egg from nestling in the uterine wall, subsequently resulting in the rejection of the egg cell and some endometrium (womb lining): an apparent menstruation.
With the current technologies (e.g. 3D echo), detailed behavioural characteristics of foetuses can be observed that indicate a developed emotional state. Yet virtually all abortions take place with a gestational age of more than eight weeks. Within 12 weeks, these characteristics are such that even an ‘unbelieving’ British gynaecologist, who is a pioneer in the field of 3D echoes, no longer wished to be personally responsible for performing abortions in that stage.