It is impossible to argue on either side of the abortion issue unless the arguer knows what he or she is talking about. Ignorance is a horrible thing that can and will negatively affect a person or an entire society. Polls show that most women who have abortions don’t even feel they are educated about the subject. This section is meant to describe what abortion is, so that it is obvious what pro-life and pro-choice people are fighting about. The issue of abortion goes far beyond life vs. choice.
- The first section deals with the semantics of the actual word abortion. What does this word mean in the English language strictly from dictionary definition? How are other abortion terms defined?
- The second section talks about the abortion process. This tells what an abortion means to the mother and the unborn child, describing the various methods of how the child is killed.
- The third section tells the history of abortion. This page shows how the opinion of abortion throughout the growth of our society.
- The final section talks exclusively about partial birth abortion. State and federal legislatures have been battling over the partial birth abortion issue virtually since Roe vs. Wade. This page shows the partial birth abortion procedure and other information about the topic.
The strict dictionary definition of abortion is “Induced termination of pregnancy and expulsion of an embryo or fetus that is incapable of survival.”1 An alternate definition, ironic in such a controversial issue, is “a monstrosity”1 (however this is obviously not the word’s common usage).
An important emotional word often used in the abortion debate is “baby.” Baby has three major definitions. The first is “Small in comparison to others of the same kind.”1 “Human being” is “A member of the genus Homo and especially of the species H. sapiens,”1 which is true of embryos, fetuses, children, teenagers, adults, and everyone else with our similar genetic coding. Fetuses and embryos are small in comparison to other humans, so fetuses by this definition are babies. The second definition of baby is “a very young child.”1 One definition of “child” is “An unborn infant; a fetus.”1 So a baby is “a very young unborn infant; a fetus.” The third definition of baby is “The youngest member of a family or group OR a very young animal.”1 “Fetus,” a Latin word meaning “young one” fits these two definitions almost exactly. So, by all three relevant definitions of “baby,” a fetus is a baby.
Abortion is an induced termination of pregnancy and expulsion of a baby that is incapable of survival.
Expulsion is a word in our definition of abortion, but what does it mean? The definition of expel is “To force or drive out.”1 In the abortion definition, expulsion refers to the driving of a fetus or embryo out of its womb.
“Kill” is an interesting word that comes up often in an abortion debate. The main definition of this is “To put to death”. The second definition is “To deprive of life.”1. “Deprivation” is “To hinder from possessing.”3
The biological definition of “Life” is “The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth… and response to stimuli.”1 Since the unborn baby has a metabolism, grows, and can react to stimuli (see Fetal Development), it by definition has life.
So let us look at our two definitions of “to kill.” If the fetus “is incapable of survival” outside of the womb and is “driven out” of the womb, it will die. Since it once was alive, and is dead after an intended abortion, the baby was, by this definition killed. The second definition of “to kill” treats abortion in a slightly different way. If a fetus has the possibility to have life after birth and is “hindered from possessing” this because of an abortion, it is being killed just because of lost possibilities. Either way, the verb “to kill” is applicable for abortion.
Abortion is the induced termination of pregnancy of a killing a baby that is incapable of independent survival.
Murder: “To kill another human being.”1 As shown above, fetuses are by definition human beings. So killing a fetus is murder.
Abortion is the induced termination of a pregnancy murdering a baby.
Let’s look at two other semantic parts of abortion. Abortionists are those who perform abortions that murder babies. “Murderer” is defined as “One who murders another.”1 So abortionists, that murder babies, are murderers.
“Mass” is “a large number,” so a Mass Murder is “a large number of murders.” There are about 1.6 million abortions per year in the United States alone.2
The death toll abortion is staggering: higher than any other event in known history. Abortion has already been defined as murder therefore we can call abortion a “mass murder.”
An interesting clause to reflect upon in the dictionary definition of abortion is “incapable of survival.” If a baby is viable, then its murder isn’t abortion at all. Strictly by definition, it is a murder the same as that of an adult.
1. American Heritage Dictionary
2. Stanley K. Henshaw, et al.,”Abortions Services in the United States, 1991 and 1992,”
Family Planning Perspectives, vol.26, no.3 (May/June 1994), p.101
3. Webster’s Dictionary.
Methods of Abortion
There are many different ways an abortion can be performed. Different methods are used under different circumstances and after different developments of the embryo or fetus. No method of abortion is 100% safe, and no method is 100% successful. (See Side Effects)
|Methotrexate Injection||Performed in the early first trimester. Methotrexate is injected and begins to attack the cells surrounding the embryo.1 The embryo is deprived of food and oxygen, and eventually dies. Several days later, misoprostol is injected to trigger the expulsion of the embryo. This expulsion may not occur for as long as eight weeks2, and the woman may bleed heavily3. The actual expulsion may occur at any moment and in any place 4. In about 4% of cases, expulsion does not occur and surgery is required 2.
This is not a common form of abortion because Methotrexate is toxic and has many common side-effects, such as nausea, pain, diarrhea, and increased chance of cancer, anemia, and lung disease5.
|The most common (98%) form of first trimester abortion6. The cervix is dilated, and a powerful vacuum tube with a sharp cutting edge is inserted. The suction rips apart the body of the baby, and sucks out blood, amniotic fluid, tissue, and body parts7.
The most frequent post-abortion complication occurs with this method. If any fetal or placental tissue is left behind in the uterus, infection can develop.
|Dilatation and Curettage (D&C;)||Generally performed in the first or early second trimester. The cervix is dilated or stretched to permit the insertion of a loop shaped steel knife. The body of the fetus is cut up and removed from the placenta7.
Blood loss and likelihood of uterine perforation are relatively high in this form of abortion8.
|Dilation and Evacuation (D&E;)||Generally performed in the second trimester, this is similar to D&C.; Forceps are used to rip away pieces of the developing body and remove them from the womb. Because the skull has often hardened by this time, it may have to be crushed for removal.
Bone fragments from the crushed skull can easily puncture the cervix, causing high blood loss9.
|Prostaglandins Injection||Performed during the second trimester. Prostaglandins, naturally occurring birthing hormones, are injected to prematurely induce labor. Oftentimes the baby is delivered alive10.
Permanent placental, cervical, and cardiovascular side-effects are common. Even death is possible11.
|Saline Amniocentesis (Salt Poisoning)||This method, first used in Nazi concentration camps and now common in America, is performed during the second or early third trimester. A needle is injected into the abdomen, and 50-250ml of amniotic liquid is removed12. This is replaced by a concentrated salt that burns away and deteriorates the baby’s skin13. Within three days the mother goes into labor and delivers a dead, burned baby14.
This concentrated salt may cause severe hemmorage, cervical injuries, or side effects to the nervous system such as seizures or coma15.
|Urea Injection||Performed during the second or early third trimester. This is performed just like Salt Poisoning, however it is not as strong.
Though not as dangerous as Salt Poisoning, Urea Injection increases the chance of a failed abortion, which usually results in surgery. Almost 2% of Urea Injection patients must be hospitalized for side-effects16.
|Hysterotomy||Performed during the third trimester, this is usually performed if other forms of abortion are unsuccessful. Incisions are made in the abdomen, and the baby, placenta, and amniotic sac are removed. Babies are often removed alive during the operation7.
The risk to the mother’s health is greatest in this form of abortion, and the chance of complications during later pregnancies is greatly increased8.
|Partial Birth Abortion||Performed during the late second or third trimester. Using ultrasound, the abortionist grasps the baby’s leg with forceps, and partially forcefully delivers all but the head. Scissors are then jammed into the back of the babies skull, and the wound is pryed open. A powerful vacuum tube is inserted and sucks out the baby’s brain.
“Dilatation and evacuation, for example, where fetal tissue is progressively punctured, ripped, and crushed, and which is done after 13 weeks when the fetus certainly responds to noxious stimuli, would cause organic pain in the fetus. Saline amnioinfusion, where a highly concentrated salt solution burns away the outer skin of the fetus, also qualifies as a noxious stimulus [pain].”
-T. Sullivan, M.D., FAAP,
Amer. Academy of Neurosurgeons
1. Mitchell D. Creinin, M.D., “Methotrexate for abortion at 42 days gestation”
Contraception, Vol. 48, No. 6 (December, 1993), p. 519.
2. Eric A Schaff, M.D., et al, “Combined Methtrexate and Misoprostol for Early
Induced Abortion,” Archives of Family Medicine, Vol. 4. 1995, p. 2.
3. Richard U. Hausknecht, M.D., “Methotrexate and Misoprostol to Terminate
Early Pregnancy,” New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 33, No. 9 (August 31, 1995), p.538.
4. Conversation between Richard U. Hausknecht, M.D., and Phil Donahue, “An Abortion Pill by Prescription Without Surgery,” The Phil Donahue Show,
September 26, 1995; Journal Graphics, Transcript #4346, pp. 2-4.
5. Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR), 47th edition (Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Data, 1993)., p. 1245.
6. U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Abortion Surveillance: Preliminary Data — United States, 1991, ” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 43, No. 3, 1994, p. 43.
7. U.S. Senate Report of the Committee on the Judiciary, Human Life Federalism Amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 3, 98th Congress, 1st Session, legislative day June 6, 1983, p. 36.
8. F. Gary Cunningham, M.D., et al, Williams Obstetrics, 19th ed. (Norwalk, CT: Appleton & Lang, 1993), p.683.
9. Warren M. Hern, M.D., Abortion Practice (Philadelphia: J.B. Lipincott Company, 1984), pp. 153-154.
10. Nancy K. Rhoden, “The New Neonatal Dilemma: Live Births from Late Abortions,” The Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 72 (1984), p. 1458.
11. Willard Cates, M.D. and H.V.F. Jordaan, “Sudden Collapse and Death of Women Obtaining Abortion Induced by Prostaglandin F2 Alpha,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 133 (February 15, 1979), pp. 398-400.
12. Thomas D. Kerenyi, “Hypertonic Saline Instillation,” in Second Trimester Abortion, cited above, p. 81.
13. Jeff Lyon, “Abortion paradox: A live baby,” York Daily Record (York, Pennsylvania), August 21, 1982.
14. Stephen L. Corson., M.D., et al, Fertility Control (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1985), pp. 82-83.
15. James R. Scott, M.D., et al, Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology, 6th ed. (Philadephia: J.B. Lippincott, 1990), p. 726.
16. Ibid., pp. 115-116.
17. Martin Haskell, M.D., “Dilation and Extraction for Late Second Trimester Abortion,” in “Second Trimester Abortion: From Every Angle,” Fall Risk Management Seminar, September 13-14, 1992, Dallas, Texas, National Abortion Federation.
The History of Abortion
Abortion, in some form, has existed in the human race for millennia. Ancient tribes would sometimes be forced to move quickly, and pregnant women could slow the entire tribe down. Abuse of the woman’s abdomen, and later abuse through excessive horseback riding, could cause the baby to be born prematurely. This baby was then either killed or left to die. Unfortunately, the mother also frequently died during the birthing. Today abortion is much safer for the mother, but just as deadly to the child.
The Bible is one of the best historical accounts of ancient human civilization. If it is not taken for its religious purpose, the Bible accurately describes the culture of the Hebrew people. From the beginning of the Hebrew nation, unborn life was seen to be just as precious as born life (see Religion and Abortion).
In other cultures the question of the legality of abortion varied, however there was a general theme. Unborn life was seen to be the equal of born life. For ancient cultures there are logical and non-moral explanations for this trend. Hundreds or thousands of years ago there were no pregnancy tests and no tools to perform early-term abortions. By the time an abortion was performed, the baby was delivered, premature but alive. The abortion process would be completed by infanticide of a born child.
Methods of abortion remotely modern didn’t appear until the nineteenth century. In the western world laws sprang up to protect the lives of the unborn. In 1859, the American Medical Association unanimously adopted a resolution condemning “the procuring of abortion, at every period of gestation, except as necessary for preserving the life of either mother or child.” Abortion continued to be practiced under different names, and in 1900 about one in six American pregnencies was terminated through abortion (Source:Mother Earth by Emma Goldman, 1911). However under great pressure from social leaders abortion became unacceptable and laws became harsh against the practice. Illegal abortion rates plumetted. In some areas of the world, such as the Chinese Empire, abortion continued to be endorsed and was widely practiced. Similarly in these areas infanticide was also endorsed.
There wasn’t serious opposition to this belief that the unborn were children until the mid-twentieth century. Groups such as the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League in the United States appeared, saying that unborn life was not life after all. These gained support as the number of illegal abortions increased in the late 1960s. NARAL promised that abortion doesn’t hurt the fetuses, and that by legalizing abortion child abuse, illegal abortion, and teen pregnancy rates would be decreased.
In 1973 the Supreme Court issued the verdict of Roe vs. Wade, striking down most anti-abortion laws across the United States. Several other Supreme Court cases followed, constricting, expanding, and balancing the rights to live and/or choose. Many states have passed different laws attempting to protect the lives of unborn children, however abortion itself remains legal. Since the legalization, child abuse, illegal abortion, and teen pregnancy rates have all sharply increased.
The latest international abortion issue is in China. The abortion rate of female children is extremely high. As has been the historical trend, this matches an alarmingly high rate of born-infanticide.
The latest national issue in abortion is that over Partial Birth Abortions. These are late term abortions in which the baby is partially delivered and then killed. Several states have passed bans on Partial Birth Abortions, and many of these have been struck down by courts. National laws banning partial-birth abortions have been passed by Congress and vetoed by President Clinton on several occasions. The House has overridden these vetoes, but the Senate has been several votes short of the required two-thirds majority.