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A significant number of women need access to abortion care after the first trimester (after 12 weeks of pregnancy) for many different reasons. While later abortions are a small percentage of all abortions performed in the U.S., over 35,000 women each year have abortions at 16-20 weeks gestation, and over 11,000 women need abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
There are no abortion services at all in 87% of U.S. counties, and the number of facilities offering later abortions is even more limited. According to the 2005 survey of abortion providers conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, the majority of abortions between 17 and 24 weeks are performed in a few freestanding abortion clinics.
The assassination of George Tiller, MD, has had a significant effect on access to later abortion in the U.S. His death and the subsequent closing of his clinic bring to light the striking lack of options for a small but significant portion of abortion patients who need later abortions. This website is dedicated to the memory and spirit of Dr. Tiller and is a resource for women, clinicians, researchers and journalists who want to learn more about later abortion care.
The terminology used to discuss abortions after the first trimester varies enormously. There is no agreement in the law or in the medical community about what constitutes the limit of the second trimester, for example. In scholarly journals, these abortions are variously referred to as “mid-trimester abortion,” “second-trimester abortion” (which is used to describe abortions up to 24 weeks or up to 27 weeks, depending on the writer or the state law) and late abortion. Within the mainstream media, the phrase “late-term abortion” is often used in articles about abortion policy and advocacy. These competing terms do not provide accurate clinical descriptions or contribute to public knowledge about abortion care and the differences at various stages of gestation. It is for this reason that we do not use the phrase “late-term abortion” here, and recommend against its use. Instead, we use and recommend the phrase “later abortion” to identify any pregnancy termination after 17 weeks of gestational age.
To contribute information to this site, please contact Pat Anderson.
Photos, l to r: ©Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/Cultura/Getty Images; ©Vladimir Godnik/moodboard/Corbis; ©Ned Frisk/Blend Images/Getty Images; ©Jack Hollingsworth/Blend Images/Getty Images.
Photo below: courtesy TWP, Creative Commons license
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