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Late-Term Abortion refers to the termination of a fetus performed late in a pregnancy. These abortions generally occur after the 20th week of gestation.
Dilation and evacuation is the most common method of late-term abortion. During this procedure, luminaria sticks, which absorb liquid and expand, are placed into the cervix. This dilates the cervix and encourages labor. A chemical is then injected into the amniotic cavity which kills the fetus. Its remains are extracted using surgical instruments. A variation on this procedure, known as intact dilation and extraction, or early labor induction, may also be used.
A Late-Term Abortion may also be called Late Termination of Pregnancy.
While abortions performed after the 20th week are most commonly called late-term, there is no one definition of when the classification applies. Some conservative sources call any abortion performed after the 12th week late-term. Others argue that only abortions performed in the third trimester, or 27th week, deserve the term. Some experts prefer to relate the term to a fetus' viability rather than its age. However, this is problematic as viability varies from one pregnancy to the next.
Fetuses terminated in late-term abortions are more developed than those performed early in a pregnancy. That makes these types of abortions more controversial. For this reason, there are more restrictions surrounding late-term abortions than early-stage abortions. The practice is banned in 42 U.S. states; exemptions exist when the woman's life, physical health, or mental health is at risk.
While there are many critics of late-term abortions, it's worth noting that the practice is very rare. It makes up up roughly 1% of abortions performed in the United States depending on your definition.
Studies show that most women who undergo late-term abortions misjudge their gestation or do not realize that they are pregnant. Struggling to make arrangements for an abortion or fearing telling a partner or parents are other common reasons.
Women who have late-term abortions are often teenagers, minorities, or otherwise disadvantaged. Late-term abortions may also help save the lives of women when fetal abnormalities or illnesses are detected. For these reasons, many believe that a woman's right to a late-term abortion should be protected.