Learn the Facts

How is a D&X or “partial birth” abortion performed?

A D&X (dilation and extraction) or partial-birth abortion is typically performed in the late second or third trimester. As with a D&E abortion (see above), the cervix must first be dilated, usually with laminaria (dried seaweed sticks). Forceps are then inserted into the uterus to grasp the fetus’s legs. The fetus is delivered breech while the head remains inside the birth canal. Using blunt-tipped surgical scissors, the base of the skull is pierced, and a suction catheter is inserted to extract the contents of the skull. This causes the skull to collapse, and the dead fetus is then fully delivered.

Despite the fact that the United States Supreme Court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2007, D&X abortions are likely still being performed. An abortionist can avoid violating the law by first injecting the fetus with a lethal intracardiac injection to ensure that the fetus will already be dead when it is partially delivered.

See also How is an intracardiac injection abortion performed? 


Goldberg, Carey. “Shots assist in aborting fetuses.” Boston Globe, August 10, 2007. Accessed October 17, 2019. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/08/10/shots_assist_in_aborting_fetuses.

Willke, John, MD and Barbara Willke. Abortion: Questions & Answers. Cincinnati: Hayes, 2003.

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