What REALLY happens during an abortion: One surgeon finally tells the truth

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  1. I thought this was worth reading and so decided to post it here, but it isn't pleasant, so please don't read on if you think it will upset you:

    What REALLY happens during an abortion: One surgeon finally tells the truth

    The blonde teenager, waiting to go into the operating theatre, is 16 years old and nearly 16 weeks pregnant. She'll be one of up to 60 women having an abortion that day at the Marie Stopes clinic in south London.

    She had considered having an abortion in secret, but eventually her mum guessed and made the appointment for her.

    The abortion she's about to have would be illegal in many European countries, where the time limit is 12 weeks, unless the foetus is severely disabled or the mother's life is at risk.

    But in Britain, abortions performed for those critical health reasons accounted for only 2 per cent of the 200,000 abortions carried out last year.

    The overwhelming majority were carried out on the legal grounds that two doctors agreed that continuing the pregnancy would damage the mother's physical or mental well-being.

    Small wonder, then, that some say the law is interpreted to allow abortion on demand. Very few doctors will refuse a woman who believes she can't cope with the pregnancy or an unwanted child. And she can make that decision right up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

    These facts are worth restating because 40 years ago this month abortion became legal in Britain. The heat has never gone out of the debate, but the issue has usually simmered on the political back-burner. That's all set to change in the next few weeks.

    Dr Vincent Argent: Believes the current law urgently needs changing
    A committee of MPs is already investigating whether new medical and scientific advances mean the law should be updated. And later in the year, backbenchers will table a series of amendments to try to change the law in both directions.

    The pro-life lobby want to restrict the upper time limit on abortions, while the pro-choice side want to make early abortion even easier.

    The debate has already boiled over into the headlines. This week the Science and Technology Select Committee published more than 300 pages of written evidence from doctors and campaign groups on each side of the argument.

    One of the most controversial submissions - as revealed in yesterday's Daily Mail - comes from senior consultant obstetrician Dr Vincent Argent, who wants to see so-called social abortions (where the foetus is healthy and there is no serious risk to the mother's wellbeing) limited to 16 weeks.

    And he's not alone in his unease about the current law. In next Wednesday's Dispatches programme on Channel 4 we reveal the deep concern among many doctors who, like Dr Argent, work within the abortion service and are passionate supporters of a woman's right to choose, yet who still believe the current law urgently needs changing.

    They've been having this debate privately for a long time, but they don't talk about it in public - and one of the reasons is the very nature of the abortion procedure, especially in the later stages.

    About 20,000 abortions a year are performed after 12 weeks - 10 per cent of the total. And among those statistics is the 16-year-old who is about to undergo the procedure.

    If she'd asked the surgeon, scrubbing up in the operating theatre, he would have given her his standard, brief answer: "The terminology I'd use would be that the foetus is removed and that the foetus dies as a result of that process," says Dr John Spencer, who is the senior clinical director for Marie Stopes and one of only a handful of doctors in the country who perform abortions right up to the legal limit of 24 weeks.

    But in the Dispatches programme, Dr Spencer will break a huge medical taboo and spell out exactly what happens. Though we do not show the aborted foetus, what viewers will see and hear may very well shock them, but it is a vital contribution to the whole debate.

    In the first 12 weeks or so of pregnancy, doctors can use a simple suction procedure. After that, the surgery becomes more complicated.

    Dr Spencer opens a fresh pack of shiny instruments. He's an extremely calm, softly spoken man, which somehow makes his words all the more devastating. "The foetus can't come out in one go. We haven't dilated sufficiently for that. The foetal parts are soft enough to break apart as they are being removed..."

    In other words, he has to dismember the foetus inside the uterus and pull it out, bit by bit. He uses an ultrasound scan to guide him. Even then, some body parts are too large to come out intact.

    To illustrate what happens, Dr Spencer grips his thumb between the surgical forceps and squeezes gently. "Those parts are the skull and then the spine and pelvis, and in fact they are crushed..."

    The operation on the 16-year-old is over in 12 minutes. The bowl with what they call "the products of conception" is quickly wheeled out of the theatre, covered in yellow plastic.

    The surgical procedure is done under general anaesthetic. A couple of hours later the slightly groggy teenager is driven home by her mother, on her way to getting on with the rest of her life.

    Everyone involved in providing abortions - the doctors, the nurses, those running the clinics - will stress that the women coming for abortions in the later stages of pregnancy are often those in the most difficult circumstances.

    Although the teenager was typical - shocked and unsure what to do - the same applies to many older women who've already had children and feel their family is complete. Would they still feel the same way about a late-term abortion if they knew the full details of the procedure?

    "When you get to the later stages," says Dr Spencer, "they're making a very difficult but important decision, putting their future first, as they're entitled to do."

    But that hides the fact that many doctors - including those who perform abortions - have deep concerns about the current law. So much so that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) recently warned of a shortage of doctors willing to train to perform abortions.

    Already many local NHS trusts don't have any staff who are willing to perform abortions much beyond 12 weeks of pregnancy. Women needing later abortions are often referred to Marie Stopes or the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

    Dr Kate Guthrie is a senior member of the RCOG. She also runs the NHS abortion service in Hull, where she operates on patients who are up to 14 weeks pregnant.

    She'd be willing to retrain for the more complicated later procedure, but she wouldn't operate beyond 20 weeks. "I think every individual has their cut-off point. It's not scientific, it's just personal, it's just foetal size."

    When I press her to spell out whether she means if the foetus is just "too much of a baby", she says: "I suppose so."

    ctd below...
  2. rest of the article:

    But the debate goes beyond distaste for the procedure or the personal ethics of individual doctors. There are two key scientific issues that could shape the forthcoming parliamentary debate.

    The first centres on the incredibly emotive topic of foetal pain.

    One of the most powerful pieces of anti-abortion propaganda ever produced was a 1984 film called The Silent Scream, which purported to show the ultrasound image of a foetus being aborted - it's mouth apparently wide open in agony.

    In the mid-Nineties, partly in response to growing public concern about such issues, the RCOG put together a panel of experts who came to the reassuring conclusion that the foetus couldn't feel pain until 26 weeks gestation - safely beyond the abortion time limit.

    They said the part of the brain that responds to pain simply isn't developed at 26 weeks. In other words, any physical movements the foetus displays before then are purely reflex actions - the foetus is not aware and can't feel anything.

    But we found disturbing research in America that directly contradicts this established view. It came from Dr Sunny Anand, who has a distinguished record in helping to prove that very young babies can feel pain. When he was based at Oxford University in the 1980s his work helped to ensure that newborn babies were routinely given pain relief for surgical procedures.

    His latest research is extremely technical and covers two areas. First, he's been comparing how newborn babies and unborn foetuses react to any kind of stress, including pain.

    He's found similar changes in their hormones and their blood flow, suggesting that foetuses can indeed respond to pain.

    Secondly, he's been researching - using rats - exactly which parts of the developing brain are used to detect pain.

    He says that while the adult uses the very top section of the brain, the foetus has the first flickerings of sensation in the area below that. Crucially, this part of the brain develops before 26 weeks.

    His conclusions could have enormous consequences for the abortion debate. He told Dispatches: "I believe that foetuses can feel pain very likely by 20 weeks of gestation and possibly even earlier."

    The other scientific evidence MPs will be hearing about concerns viability - the age at which premature babies can survive. Forty years ago, when the abortion law was first passed, babies under 28 weeks rarely survived. Things have changed dramatically since then.

    Back in July, we filmed a newborn baby named Hope in the neo-natal intensive care unit of Liverpool Women's Hospital. In her incubator, Hope was almost invisible under a pink blanket, surrounded by wires and bleeping monitors.

    She had been born at 23 weeks - one week before she could have still been legally aborted. And here she was, three weeks later, still clinging to life with the frailest of grips.

    Hope lived for two months, with her parents constantly at her side, before she died. In Britain, modern drugs and high-tech treatment meant she had about a 25 per cent chance of survival - hich would have doubled if she'd been born a week later. The odds were against her from the outset.

    But those statistics are changing all the time. In America the chances of her survival would have been better, and what happens over there will inevitably filter through to Britain.

    At a specialist unit in Arkansas, we filmed Dr Whit Hall checking on his tiny patients. "The survival is as high as 75 to 80 per cent for 24-weekers and about 50 per cent for 23-weekers," he explained.

    How relevant those statistics are to the whole abortion debate in Britain seems to depend on your views. Ann Furedi, who runs the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, strongly believes the two issues shouldn't be confused.

    "The women we see at 23 weeks are the ones who have incredibly compelling grounds for abortion," she says.

    The pro-life view is expressed by Dr Trevor Stammers, a GP from Wimbledon, south London: "I think it's totally barbaric that a 24-week foetus will be aborted on one floor of a hospital and in the intensive care unit they'll be trying to save the life of another one."

    So where does this new scientific evidence take us? One thing is certain: the need for debate has never been more urgent. The last major parliamentary discussion on abortion was back in 1990. There have been huge advances in science and medicine since then.

    It will be interesting to watch whether MPs can balance the hard and frequently difficult facts about abortion with the strongly held personal and moral views that have always driven this most emotive of subjects.

    • Dispatches: Abortion - What We Need to Know, reported by Deborah Davies, is on Channel 4 on Wednesday at 10.40pm

  3. This is a hot issue and i believe women have the right to choose but i can't stand women who go past 10 weeks and those who even wait till 12-24 weeks come on thats a BABY...Women really need to be informed on what they are doing. When a women is 20 weeks old why is she allowed to kill her child just because she doesn't want it. Why wait that long?! Do they really just think it's a blob? No it's a growing baby that kicks, sucks it's thumb and moves around has a heart beat. During a abortion that baby feels PAIN as it's limbs being torn apart!
  4. Yeah I think pro choice is fine but I think 10 weeks is MORE than enough time to decide when the baby is in you! I hate when they drag it out. It's really cruel to the baby. It's like where would they be if their own mothers had decided they didn't want them either.
  5. I'm not sure if this type of article is allowed, it's religiously and politically charged.
  6. I am absolutely & utterly against abortion. I already read the article before it was posted here & am utterly appalled & disgusted, in fact words escape me to describe how repulsive abortion is! There is much research to prove that the baby dies in agony!
    Sure a woman has a right to choose but in this day & age there is no excuse for conceiving an unwanted child, Contraception is freely available!
    This is more a human rights issue & every human has the right to life!
    Furthermore there is substantial evidence to show that abortion has untold effect on the mothers, many are plagued with guilt & their lives are never the same afterwards! I have trained as a counsellor & have worked with these people so I am coming from first hand experience, not guessing!
  7. I am not against abortion if it's for health issues. But I'm against those having it simply coz she doesn't want the child. I agree with BagAngel, contraception is available and there are ways to prevent a pregnancy.
  8. While I absolutely think that people on this forum have a right to an opinion about this issue, I question whether this article is an opinion or is necessarily factual. I'm not a medical professional nor do I have intimate knowledge about what really goes on during an abortion- from what I can see, this is ONE DOCTOR'S viewpoint.

    I can see this topic denegrating into an area that will be conflict-ridden, so with all due respect I am going to close this thread. I hope those of you who have expressed an opinion are not offended- but this is really not "breaking news" either, if you think about it.

    I will also check with Vlad and Megs to see what they think but for the time being this will need to be closed.

    Feel free to PM me if you want to appeal this and I will take this up with Vlad and Megs.

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