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Illinois Federation

For Right to Life

Daily News

Monday, October 20, 2008

Terminating Down Syndrome Baby Typically Requires Gruesome D&E Procedure


The test required to determine if a baby in the womb has trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, usually takes place between the 16th and 20th week of pregnancy.


As reported earlier by, studies show that 90 percent of women who receive that diagnosis choose to have an abortion, most typically a late-term D&E abortion that requires a woman’s cervix to be dilated and the unborn child to be removed piece by piece.


“The D&E abortion is the most common abortion performed in the second trimester,” Dr. Anthony Levatino, a New Mexico-based physician who performed more than a thousand of these abortions before a personal tragedy caused him to become a pro-life advocate.


Most pregnant women who have been screened high risk for having a child with Down syndrome get a definitive diagnosis through an amniocentesis, a procedure where a needle is inserted into the uterus to collect amniotic fluid for DNA testing.


Another test, Chorionic villus sampling, also can diagnose Down syndrome, but the test is less readily available and twice as likely to cause a miscarriage, which is one in 200 for amniocentesis.


Because an amniocentesis is performed around the 16th week of gestation and results can take up to two weeks, unborn children with Down syndrome are aborted using the D&E procedure.


Since giving up a lucrative abortion practice as part of his obstetrics and gynecology practice, Levatino has made it a personal mission to educate people about the graphic details of abortion. At conferences and recently at a press conference on Capitol Hill with Priests for Life, Levatino described the steps of a D&E abortion:


Dilation and evacuation abortion (D&E) procedure ( Starr)“The first task is remove the laminaria that had earlier been placed in the cervix to dilate it sufficiently to allow the procedure. With that accomplished … surgical instruments (are) arranged on a small table to your right. The first instrument you reach for is a 14-French suction catheter. It is clear plastic and about nine inches long. It has a bore through the center approximately ¾ of an inch in diameter. The catheter (is introduced) through the cervix and the nurse (is instructed) to turn on the suction machine, which is connected through clear plastic tubing to the catheter. What you will see is a pale yellow fluid the looks a lot like urine coming through the catheter into a glass bottle on the suction machine. This amniotic fluid surrounded the baby to protect her.


“With suction complete, look for your Sopher clamp. This instrument is about thirteen inches long and made of stainless steel. At one end are located jaws about 2 ½ inches long and about ¾ of an inch wide with rows of sharp ridges or teeth. This instrument is for grasping and crushing tissue. When it gets hold of something, it does not let go.


“A second trimester D&E abortion is a blind procedure. The baby can be in any orientation or position inside the uterus, and (using) the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can. At twenty weeks gestation, the uterus is thin and soft so be careful not to perforate or puncture the walls. Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard – really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about 4 to 5 inches long.


“Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.


“The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow.


“You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see a pure white gelatinous material issue from the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. If you have a really bad day, like I often did, a little face may come out and stare back at you.”


As a medical consultant for Priests for Life, a Catholic pro-life advocacy organization, Levatino spoke to reporters in September at the National Press Club.


“The abortion debate has been raging in our country for over 35 years,” he said. “I often hear individuals explain, ‘I’m not pro-abortion, I’m pro-choice.’ Perhaps someone here could explain the difference to me. To be pro-choice one must accept the premise that a woman has the right to employ a physician to utterly destroy her own living son or daughter.”


Levatino told that he recalls “a handful” of the abortions he performed were of babies with Down syndrome. He added that none of the abortions he performed were fetuses or anonymous embryos.


“This is your son or daughter that’s being ripped apart,” he said. “That should put (abortion) into sharp focus.”


Contact: Penny Starr


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The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly.   Click here to learn more about the IFRL.