‘Abortion access journalist’ skirts answering CSPAN viewer’s question about surgical techniques

Last month, CSPAN had “abortion access” journalist with The Nation, Amy Littlefield on to discuss abortion access in the U.S. since the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision.


One inquiring caller asked: I’m kinda on the fence with abortion. What I would like to know is what the actual, when the doctor and the woman gets together for the abortion, what are the actual surgical techniques that happen?

CSPAN is supposed to educate, this is your opportunity to tell us what exactly is done to the fetus and to the woman and to the fetus afterwards.

This segment starts at the 31:57 mark of the video below.

Littlefield replied: I have worked in clinics before and I can give an interview of what happens. In a rising number of cases we’re talking about abortions accomplished with the use of pills or medication and the majority of abortions now, especially since the pandemic with people who can access telemedicine, doing so at home and with easing restrictions around the abortion pill, a lot of people are self-managing or through consultation with a medical provider, talking pills to have an abortion at home.

What that consists of is taking a pill, Mifepristone, which stops the growth of the pregnancy by blocking the pregnancy hormones. And a certain time later taking misoprostol pills, which causes the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy.

That tend to happen in the first trimester of pregnancy. 

In terms of patients who might choose to have an in-clinic procedure if it’s available to them, what’s happening the doctor is dilating the cervix and using a vacuum aspirator to remove the pregnancy in most cases. And then it’s disposed of in accordance with whatever medical regulations in the state and federal jurisdiction where that clinic is. I hope that answers the callers question.

Unfortunately, Ms. Littlefield did not answer the caller’s question, which referred to surgical techniques.

First, after discussing the use of the abortion pill, she went into Suction Curettage (the in-clinic procedure she described), which she kinda glossed over. In this procedure, the doctor inserts a hard plastic tube into the uterus, then connects this tube to a suction machine. The suction pulls the fetus’ body apart and out of the uterus. The doctor may also use a loop-shaped knife called a curette to scrape the fetus and fetal parts out of the uterus.

She totally ignored the surgical procedures the caller wanted to know about, not surprising since it’s pretty gruesome.

I’ll describe them here for you:

First there is the Dilation and Evacuation (D&E). This surgical abortion is done during the second trimester of pregnancy. At this point in pregnancy, the fetus is too large to be broken up by suction alone and will not pass through the suction tubing. In this procedure, the cervix must be opened wider than in a first trimester abortion. This is done by inserting numerous thin rods made of seaweed a day or two before the abortion. Once the cervix is stretched open the doctor pulls out the fetal parts with forceps. The fetus’ skull is crushed to ease removal. A sharp tool (called a curette) is also used to scrape out the contents of the uterus, removing any remaining tissue.

Second, there is the Dilation and Extraction (D&X) procedure, aka partial birth abortion. This procedure takes three days. During the first two days, the cervix is stretched open using thin rods made of seaweed, and medication is given for pain. On the third day, the abortion doctor uses ultrasound to locate the legs of the fetus. Grasping a leg with forceps, the doctor delivers the fetus up to the head. Next, scissors are inserted into the base of the skull to create an opening. A suction catheter is placed into the opening to remove the brain. The skull collapses and the fetus is removed.

Now you see why Ms. Littlefield declined to tell viewers about the surgical options.


Grandpa Ernie’s Diary is quick takes (and not-so-quick takes) on issues of politics, society, culture, The Bible and health & disease.

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