Johns Hopkins Study Tests Hand-Held Abortion Device on Women

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 7, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Johns Hopkins Study Tests Hand-Held Abortion Device on Women

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
October 7, 2003

Baltimore, MD ( — Pro-life advocates are dismissing a Johns Hopkins University study which claims that a certain kind of abortion device is safe in the second trimester. They say the device takes the lives of unborn children and puts women at medical risk in developing nations, where it is used illegally.

The study, published in the October issue of the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, states that a hand-held vacuum aspiration device works as well as a more expensive electrical one in later-term abortions.

Dr. Paul D. Blumenthal, the senior author of the paper and an associate professor of gynecology at Johns Hopkins, was quoted as saying, "Now that we know the low-tech device is safe and effective, it can be taught to doctors in developing nations to help reduce the prevalence of unsafe abortions and complications."

Nonsense, say pro-life leaders who have been studying the effects of the abortion technique, which is often used in poorer nations.

"(The) study released by Johns Hopkins University citing manual vacuum aspiration abortions as ‘safe and effective’ is extremely disturbing," said Megan Dillon, Deputy Press Secretary for the National Right to Life Committee. "The physical and emotional well-being of millions of women is in danger. There is no guarantee that a procedure tested within the sterile environment of an American testing facility will be used in a similar environment in developing nations."

Abortionists in developing nations often turn to the manual device because it is less costly and does not rely on electricity, which may be in short supply in poor countries.

Pro-life groups say that essentially subjects women in third-world nations to discrimination because they are subjected to more dangerous abortion methods.

In the study, second-trimester abortions were performed on 110 women who came to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center between January 1998 and September 2000. The average age of the aborted children was 16 weeks.

At this age, a child can grasp with the hands, swim, kick, and do somersaults. The mother may also begin to feel movement of the child at this point.

The Johns Hopkins abortionists performed manual vacuum aspiration on 73 women and electric vacuum aspiration on 37 women. No complications were reported in either group.

In a vacuum aspiration abortion, an abortionist uses either a hand-held specially-designed syringe or a hollow tube connected to an electrical pump to apply suction inside the cervix, removing the unborn baby in the process. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves of the manual instrument for first-trimester abortions but it had not been previously tested for second-trimester abortions.

Public opinion polls have indicated that a majority of Americans do not support abortions in the later stages of pregnancy.

When asked about the wisdom of performing second trimester abortions, Blumenthal said that they tend to be requested by women who, in his words "need it most–either teenagers, who may deny the pregnancy at first or don’t know where to turn, or older women who have an unexpected pregnancy and other children to care for."

Pro-life activists say it is interesting to note that Blumenthal is not talking here about women whose lives are in danger, but rather women who are seeking abortion because of an unintended pregnancy.

The Population Research Institute, a pro-life group that monitors abortions around the world, says the British abortion business known as Marie Stopes International has performed manual vacuum abortions illegally in Kenya.

PRI cited an unnamed Marie Stopes official who "admitted that manual vacuum aspirations (MVAs), hand-held suction devices, were being used to perform abortions up to — and even past — 16 week’s gestation, and that the abortions were being labeled ‘post-abortion care’ or ‘menstrual regulation.’"

The manager of a Marie Stopes abortion center in Kenya, Moses Ferdinand, told PRI the (manual vacuum) procedure normally takes between five and ten minutes and is performed without anesthesia.

"Depending on the courage of the medic," Ferdinand said, an MVA abortion can be performed on a woman "past 16 weeks gestation."

Ferdinand admitted that some women may cry at this point.