RSS
What is an 'unbortion'?
A Catholic medical center in Chicago is helping women stop second-trimester abortions in the middle of the procedures
A Catholic medical center is providing a way for women, seeking second-trimester abortions, to actually stop the procedure and keep the baby.
A Catholic medical center is providing a way for women, seeking second-trimester abortions, to actually stop the procedure and keep the baby.
Corbis
A

Chicago hospital is generating controversy by becoming the first Catholic medical center in the country to develop a formal practice for helping women stop second-trimester abortions in the middle of the procedures. Resurrection Medical Center, Chicago's largest Catholic hospital, has worked with two anti-abortion groups to develop guidelines for these "unbortions." The hospital's partnership with anti-abortion activists may be "unprecedented," but the medical center's CEO tells the Chicago Tribune that  it's "part of who we are... holding life sacred a big piece of what we believe." Here, a brief guide to unbortion:

How does an "unbortion" work?
To perform a second-term abortion, a doctor first inserts a dilator, typically dried seaweed called laminaria, to open a women's cervix. The women is then sent home. Normally, she returns the next day for more luminaria or to have the fetus removed. But now, if a woman changes her mind, the laminaria can be removed, and the cervix then hopefully closes on its own, allowing a woman to carry the pregnancy to term.

Are "unbortions" dangerous?
Possibly. Some doctors warn that it's an "uncharted" procedure that can result in a risky pregnancy, premature delivery, or miscarriage. Indeed, a 2009 New York University report found that in two out of four cases in which the dilator was removed, the result was a premature birth where the baby did not survive. 

Who's having "unbortions"?
Anti-abortion "sidewalk counselors" approach women outside of abortion clinics and inform them of the option to stop their abortions. Those that opt to do so are escorted to Resurrection's emergency room, where they are treated immediately. An anonymous 28-year-old woman, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune, says that she's grateful that a "pushy" priest approached her. "He saved the life of my baby and maybe he saved my life too." Yeah, but will the sidewalk counselors be there for middle-of the night feedings? asks Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky. "Will they pay for the formula and diapers?"

How many women have had this procedure?
Three women have had their abortions halted at Resurrection, but doctors have performed the procedure on rare occasion for decades. For instance, one study, out of Tel Aviv, looked at 21 women who had the procedure between 1978 and 1990. Four of the women chose to have the laminaria reinserted and went through with the abortion, two delivered prematurely, one miscarried, and 14 carried their pregnancies to term.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Time, The Frisky

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week