Learn the Facts

How is a D&E abortion performed?

A D&E (dilation and evacuation) abortion is typically performed in the first half of the second trimester (13–20 weeks), but can be used up to approximately 24 weeks. At this stage of pregnancy, the fetus’s tendons, muscles, and bones are more developed. In a D&E abortion, forceps are inserted into the uterus to forcibly dismember the fetus, and the pieces are removed one by one. Larger fetuses must also have their skulls crushed so the pieces can pass through the cervix.

Typically, the cervix must be dilated for a period of one to three days prior to a D&E abortion. This is most often done by inserting laminaria (dried seaweed sticks) into the cervix. Therefore, a D&E abortion usually requires two visits to the abortion facility.


Clowes, Brian, PhD. The Facts of Life. Front Royal, VA: Human Life International, 2001.

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