At the federal level, abortion is legal in the United States up until birth. Read on to learn more about prenatal development taking place in the first, second and third trimesters of pregnancy and the most prevalent methods of abortion used during each stage.
The First Trimester
During this stage of pregnancy, the preborn child is developing rapidly. At four to five weeks LMP — that is, four to five weeks since the first day of the mother’s last period, and just 21 days following fertilization (conception) — the baby’s organs start to develop, and the heart begins to beat. These developmental milestones often take place before the mother even knows she is pregnant.
The preborn baby’s hands and feet are developing, and the neural pathways in her brain start to form. The child is constantly moving in the womb, although the mother cannot feel it. (Source: Baby Center)
The child can suck her thumb, open and close her jaw, stretch, and sigh. The baby’s teeth begin to form and the heart completes dividing into four chambers. (Source: Baby Center)
The child’s vital organs have developed and start to function. The baby is rapidly moving in the uterus, and tiny nails begin to form on the child’s hands and feet. (Source: Baby Center)
The child develops reflexes, and can open and close fingers, respond to touch, and make movements with his or her mouth. The child’s nerve cells are developing rapidly. (Source: Baby Center)
First Trimester Abortion
A medical (or chemical) abortion is a non-surgical form of abortion in which the woman takes pills containing Mifepristone (RU-486) and Misoprostol (or Cytotec) to end the life of the baby.
SUCTION (ASPIRATION) D&C
A suction, or aspiration, D&C abortion is a procedure in which a suction catheter is inserted into the mother’s uterus to extract the preborn baby. Tools are then used to scrape the lining of the uterus to remove any remaining parts.
The Second Trimester
The preborn baby’s fingerprints are visible, and the child’s organs are visible through his or her thin skin. (Source: Baby Center)
The child’s toenails begin to form, and his or her face and limbs are much more developed. The baby’s heart is pumping roughly 25 quarts of blood every day, and will continue as the child develops in the womb. (Source: Baby Center)
The child’s nervous system is developed enough to feel pain. Research by the University of Toronto shows that babies at this stage can feel pain in the womb — even with greater intensity than adults. Almost all mothers feel the baby move by this point in pregnancy. (Source: Baby Center)
The baby is roughly a foot long, and his or her brain is developing rapidly. The child’s lungs are also developing into their branch-like structure. At this age, almost all babies can survive outside the mother if given proper support. (Source: Baby Center)
Second Trimester Abortion
A dilation (dilatation) and evacuation abortion, D&E, is a surgical abortion procedure during which an abortionist first dilates the woman’s cervix and then uses instruments to dismember and extract the baby from the uterus.
The Third Trimester
At 25 weeks, a preborn child is fully developed and considered viable — that is, with proper medical care and attention, he or she would be able to survive outside of the womb. While medical staff is required to provide life-saving care to a child who survives an abortion procedure, it is unlikely that doctors and hospitals will take intensive measures to rescue the baby if it is born alive following an abortion procedure.
A preborn child is fully developed and considered viable, meaning it would likely survive outside of the womb if it were born. The baby’s hair continues to grow, and the color and texture can be discerned. At this stage, the child is around 13½ inches long, from the baby’s head to its heels. (Source: Baby Center)
The child’s brain tissue continues to develop, and the baby is sleeping and waking in regular cycles. The child’s brain tissue continues to develop, and the baby is sleeping and waking in regular cycles. The mother may even feel the child hiccup at this stage, which may become more common as the pregnancy progresses. (Source: Baby Center)
The baby can turn his or her head to the side, and is very active in the womb. The baby kicks and does somersaults, and develops more fat underneath the skin. (Source: Baby Center)
Third Trimester Abortion
A third trimester induction abortion is performed at 25 weeks LMP to term. The abortionist will usually first kill the baby in utero by injecting a substance that causes cardiac arrest, and induces the mother’s labor to deliver her baby stillborn.