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Special Communication |

Late-term Abortion

Janet E. Gans Epner, PhD; Harry S. Jonas, MD; Daniel L. Seckinger, MD
JAMA. 1998;280(8):724-729. doi:10.1001/jama.280.8.724.
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Recent proposed federal legislation banning certain abortion procedures, particularly intact dilatation and extraction, would modify the US Criminal Code such that physicians performing these procedures would be liable for monetary and statutory damages. Clarification of medical procedures is important because some of the procedures used to induce abortion prior to viability are identical or similar to postviability procedures. This article reviews the scientific and medical information on late-term abortion and late-term abortion techniques and includes data on the prevalence of late-term abortion, abortion-related mortality and morbidity rates, and legal issues regarding fetal viability and the balance of maternal and fetal interests. According to enacted American Medical Association (AMA) policy, the use of appropriate medical terminology is critical in defining late-term abortion procedures, particularly intact dilatation and extraction, which is a variant of but distinct from dilatation and evacuation. The AMA recommends that the intact dilatation and extraction procedure not be used unless alternative procedures pose materially greater risk to the woman and that abortions not be performed in the third trimester except in cases of serious fetal anomalies incompatible with life. Major medical societies are urged to collaborate on clinical guidelines on late-term abortion techniques and circumstances that conform to standards of good medical practice. More research on the advantages and disadvantages of specific abortion procedures would help physicians make informed choices about specific abortion procedures. Expanded ongoing data surveillance systems estimating the prevalence of abortion are also needed.

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