The Dilatation and Evacuation (D&E) Abortion Procedure

Analysts of public opinion widely acknowledge that the public debate on partial-birth abortion, beginning in 1995, caused many Americans to re-evaluate their assessment of whether abortion should be legal in all circumstances. A key element of the public debate was the fact that illustrations of the procedure were shown on national television and in print ads.

Since then, Priests for Life has engaged in educational efforts to show diagrams of the most common second-trimester abortion procedure, dilatation and evacuation (D&E). The diagram you see on this page was developed by medical illustrators with the advice and input of physicians. (The images were obtained through Nucleus Medical Media, Inc. and may only be reproduced with their permission.)

With the help of our own medical advisor, Dr. Tony Levatino, who used to perform D&E abortions before he was converted to the pro-life position, Priests for Life will publicize and explain this chart. Dr. Levatino provides here a description of the D&E.

Following are some quotes from medical and legal sources about the D&E procedure, which is legal throughout the United States.
"Dilatation and evacuation has become one of the two most frequently used methods of abortion in the second trimester" (Berger et al, ed., Second Trimester Abortion: Perspectives After a Decade of Experience, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1981, p.120). [Note: According to the Alan Guttmacher institute, 11% of abortions are performed at 13 weeks or more, by any procedure, which would translate into approximately 116,600 per year.]

"Second-trimester D&E abortions are performed on an outpatient basis in both hospitals and free-standing clinics…Most surgeons rely on large forceps to evacuate the products of conception" (Berger, op cit., p.121-128).

The following account of D&E is part of sworn testimony given in US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Madison, WI, May 27, 1999, Case No. 98-C-0305-S), by Dr. Martin Haskell, an abortionist:

"And typically when the abortion procedure is started we typically know that the fetus is still alive because either we can feel it move as we're making our initial grasps or if we're using some ultrasound visualization when we actually see a heartbeat as we're starting the procedure. It's not unusual at the start of D&E procedures that a limb is acquired first and that that limb is brought through the cervix and even out of the vagina prior to disarticulation and prior to anything having been done that would have caused the fetal demise up to that point."

"When you're doing a dismemberment D&E, usually the last part to be removed is the skull itself and it's floating free inside the uterine cavity…So it's rather like a ping-pong ball floating around and the surgeon is using his forcep to reach up to try to grasp something that's freely floating around and is quite large relative to the forcep we're using. So typically there's several misdirections, misattempts to grasp. Finally at some point either the instruments are managed to be place around the skull or a nip is made out of some area of the skull that allows it to start to decompress. And then once that happens typically the skull is brought out in fragments rather than as a unified piece…"

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