A new abortion technique allows women to end a pregnancy just days after conception and before they’ve even missed a menstrual period.
The new method is offered at several Planned Parenthood Federation affiliates across the country.
Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, couldn’t give an exact count of the locations performing the technique or the states and cities where they are located. She said Sunday there are “probably under 20” facilities now using the procedure.
Doctors have been reluctant to perform abortions before six or seven weeks of gestation because of the lack of accurate early pregnancy tests.
But better ultrasound imaging that shows the gestational sac in its earliest stages and more sensitive pregnancy tests, along with the new surgical technique, have made such early abortions possible.
The technique, pioneered by Dr. Jerry Edwards, the medical director at Houston’s Planned Parenthood, uses a hand-held syringe that avoids the noise and cost of the vacuum pump used for other abortions. The procedure can take as little as two minutes.
“It cuts down on a lot of real anxious time, lets people get this over with and go on with their lives,” Edwards told The Associated Press Sunday.
Edwards said he started performing the procedure widely in 1994, but had been using it in his private practice since around 1989.
Feldt said over the next year or two more physicians with Planned Parenthood and in private practice will be trained to perform the procedure.
Opponents say any type of abortion is wrong, no matter how early in the pregnancy.
“Scientifically speaking, there’s no difference between a fertilized egg and what you have three weeks later,” Laura Echevarria, spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee, told The New York Times in Sunday’s editions.