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What is a Third Trimester Abortion?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 17, 2024
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A third trimester abortion — or late term abortion — is a medical procedure that takes place following the sixth month of a pregnancy. The procedure involves removal of a fetus and subsequent termination of the pregnancy. Reasons for performing a third trimester abortion may include a medical issue with the pregnancy that threatens the mother’s health or fulfilling the mother’s wishes for termination. Late term abortions have long been one of the most contentious types of abortion, with many political and social activists divided on the issue.

Pregnancies are divided into three-month intervals, or trimesters. Each period is marked by certain milestones in fetal development. The third trimester in an average pregnancy typically involves superficial aspects of development like weight gain, bone thickening, and nail generation. Any abortion performed during the third trimester will likely necessitate some type of surgical extraction of the fetus.

While most abortions take place during the first trimester, research indicates a varying number of reasons why women opt for a third trimester abortion. On many occasions, the pregnancy is not recognized until it has reached the later stages. Economic or other life hardships may also prevent a woman from obtaining an earlier abortion. Health issues impacting either the pregnant woman or the fetus may arise later in the pregnancy and thus influence an abortion decision as well. Sometimes, a woman may simply delay making a final decision about her pregnancy options.

Controversy often surrounds the third trimester abortion due to debates about the fetus’ development. Since many fetuses have developed key vital organs by the time of the third trimester, opponents of late term abortion view the fetus as viable, or able to be born. Abortion critics in general may view any fetus as a living being, and therefore see the practice of abortion and third trimester abortion in particular as a wrongful killing. Supporters of abortion, on the other hand, argue for a woman’s right to continue or terminate a pregnancy regardless of the time period of the pregnancy. Further, third trimester abortions are often necessitated by health concerns for the mother or other factors that merit consideration.

Due to ongoing debate, laws and viewpoints vary widely by region and are often subject to change. Some regions of the world ban legal abortion entirely, while others place restrictions on late term abortions. Perhaps the most banned form of abortion is partial birth abortion — or dilation and extraction — in which the fetus is partially delivered before being terminated.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1000932 — On Feb 01, 2019

This is 2019, and all you here about is the woman's reproductive rights: her body her right. Reproductive rights are your decision you make before you reproduce. We live in an age where there are so many choices to stop reproduction: the morning after pill, birth control pills, IUD, vaginal rings, diaphragm, condemns, natural family planning, ovulation kits, etc, etc. If you cannot afford any of these, the health department and gynecological clinics are available.

Abortion is not a woman's reproductive right because she now has a human in her uterus, and according to the law of our land, all humans have certain rights. If you do not believe you have a human after the reproduction happened, have a DNA test done and it will show you are indeed pregnant with a human fetus, who has its own rights because it is human.

Abortion is not a reproductive right just because you or your partner did not plan first. Late term abortion in any way is murder. We are so advanced in medicine today, there should be no reason to kill a fetus after viability. If the mother is dying or her health is so bad, do a C-section, take care of the baby, do induction, wait for delivery, then take care of baby.

I want to know from a board certified obstetrician why a baby should have to die or be aborted in the third trimester. Why not let the baby live? I know women who would love to take a baby with disabilities or just a little preemie.

Please let America know the reason why a woman could even have that as a reproductive choice in 2019, and then the procedure that will be used to kill human late term fetus. Do you inject saline into the amniotic fluid and just wait, hope the baby comes out all intact, or do you have to start taking it out piece by piece?

By turquoise — On Sep 22, 2013

Third trimester abortions are rare. Most states do not allow them unless the baby dies in the womb or the mother's life is at risk.

By donasmrs — On Sep 22, 2013

@ankara-- There can be many reasons for a third trimester abortion. The mother can develop serious complications that put her life in danger in the third trimester of pregnancy. In such a situation, the mother's life usually takes preference over the child's. Of course, if the baby is at a stage that he can survive outside the womb at that time, doctors will do their best to keep him alive.

Another reason for third trimester abortion is fetal abnormality. Sometimes, parents do not become aware that there is a problem with the baby until the third trimester. At that point, it's a personal decision for the parents to decide if they want the child or not.

As much as I disagree with third trimester abortions where it's not an emergency requirement, I think it's the woman's decision. It's sad, but not everyone is willing or capable of raising a child with a disability.

By bluedolphin — On Sep 21, 2013

I'm a little confused about 3rd trimester abortion.

Isn't the baby able to survive on its own for the most part after the 7 month mark? So during the 3rd trimester, the baby can be delivered and survive on its own or with life support at the hospital. Why would anyone want to abort a child that's basically ready to be born anyway?

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