What Are Late-Term Abortions?

late-term abortions

In the wake of July’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, discussions around abortion have been frequent in the media and around dinner tables. One aspect of these discussions has been a focus on late-term abortions. These generally refer to abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy. However, in some instances, late-term abortions also refer to third-trimester abortions. So what are late-term abortions? We will discuss these procedures in this article. 

About “Late-Term” Abortions

Late-term abortions refer to abortion procedures that take place after the first trimester or around the 13th week of pregnancy. However, the wording “late-term abortion” can be a little misleading as in pregnancy, “late-term” refers to a pregnancy that is approaching or passes 40 weeks of gestation, and “late-term abortion” is related to second or third-trimester abortion procedures. Therefore, some providers now call “late-term abortion,”  “later-term abortion” to avoid this confusion.

It is important to note that in Massachusetts, abortions are legal up until 24 weeks gestation, with exceptions for cases beyond that. Even though several states have prohibited abortion after certain stages of pregnancy, Massachusetts abortion laws have been codified and will not change due to the overturning of Roe.

How Common Are Late-Term Abortions?

Although most abortions take place in the first trimester, some women still choose late-term abortion. CDC statistics suggest that 9% of abortions occur after the first trimester. However, most of those take place before 21 weeks of pregnancy. That number accounts for about 50,000 later-term abortions as of 2016. 

Abortion Procedure in Later Trimesters

Most abortions in the late first trimester, after 10 weeks, and all second and third-trimester abortions are surgical procedures. In pregnancies up to 14 weeks, medication is administered to relax the cervix. Then the provider dilates the cervix and uses suction to remove the pregnancy from the uterus. Beginning at 14 weeks, the procedure is called Dilation & Evacuation (D & E). This procedure typically happens over 2-3 days. Medication is administered to relax the cervix. The provider dilates the cervix and extracts the baby from the uterus. Sometimes a suction tool is used alongside others to remove the baby, placenta, and related tissues. Intravenous sedation is often used for these procedures. In the late second and early third-trimester abortions, a lethal injection is administered to the baby, followed by induction of labor and vaginal delivery. These clinic abortions do have risks. 


Later-term abortions are medical procedures, and as such, they are associated with some risks. These risks increase the further along in pregnancy you are and if you have certain chronic health conditions. The emotional and physical impact of abortion must be heavily considered before deciding to move forward. Some later-term abortion risks include:

  • Laceration or perforation of the uterus
  • Damage to the cervix
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Severe pain
  • Large blood clots
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Emotional trauma
  • Allergic reaction to medications

Alternatives to Late-Term Abortions

If you or a loved one face an unplanned pregnancy in the second and third trimesters, later-term abortions are not your only option. Many women find they can parent with support and resources they may not have been aware of beforehand. Others choose adoption as an alternative to a later-term abortion.

Our team at Clearway Clinic can help support and guide you through your options when facing an unplanned pregnancy. We offer free pregnancy testing, ultrasound services, and pre-and post-abortion counseling and care. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about our services. 

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