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Sensitive Issues that women think about - Fetal Remains, Fetal Age and Characteristics, Fetal Pain, Determining Gender

There are some common questions women ask about 'sensitive issues' after an abortion. We have gathered the most current information available and placed it in this section. Some of these questions and answers are triggery, so please proceed with caution if you are feeling sensitive.
NOTE: In order to try and avoid upsetting or triggering women with PASS, we use the most neutral and least upsetting terms possible for this area. Please do not misinterpret this as meaning we are taking the Pro-Choice or the Pro-Life side. We are not. We are neutral.

Fetal Remains
What do they do with what is taken out of me? What do they do with the 'remains' or 'products of conception'? Do they throw them away? Do they do stem cell research on them?

For definite answers, contact the place where you had your procedure done, and then can tell you what disposal method they use. Here are the routine procedures:
* If you had your abortion done in a hospital, the remains are usually treated like the other organic material from other surgeries, and are disposed of as 'medical organic materials'. They are disposed of by a company that handles and destroys biological remains in a sanitary method, usually an incinerator.

* If you had your abortion at an abortion clinic, they dispose of remains in the same manner. They are disposed of as 'medical organic materials'. They are disposed of by a company that handles and destroys biological remains in a sanitary method, usually an incinerator. Anything left after the incineration is usually buried in a special area or landfill designated by the local government.

* If your abortion was performed outside the United States, it depends on your country and where you had your abortion done. To know for sure, contact the clinic or medical facility that performed your procedure, and ask what their method is for handling the products of conception. Most clinics dispose of products of conception as medical organic materials, also referred to as medical waste. It is picked up by the medical waste company, and then disposed of by incineration. Anything left after the incineration is usually buried in a special area or landfill designated by the local government.

Can I get the 'remains' from my abortion?
Some clinics or facilities will make arrangements for you to recieve the remains from your abortion, but in all cases you must make this arrangement ahead of time. Check with your clinic/facility before your procedure is done.

In the United States, it is illegal to do research of any kind on the embryo/fetal remains without a separate signed consent from the patient. Planned Parenthood and most other clinics have a separate form you will have to sign, giving permission for research or study to be performed on the tissues. HOWEVER - Stem cell research is currently illegal in the United States so no stem cell research is done on the remains of an abortion.

What does an 'x' week fetus look like?
As a natural part of recovery, women will sometimes think in detail about the embryo/fetus, andwonder what it "looked like", and wonder if it 'felt pain', or was 'aware'.

Fetal Age and Characteristics:
If you want to investigate fetal age and characteristics, tread very carefully. There are lots of sites out there with misinformation and pictures that are graphic, and intended to cause shame and stress in a woman who has had an abortion. Your best bet is to check out an expectant parent's website, even though the content and way they present it will be very triggering. However, it will still give you a mostly accurate view of what an 'x' day old embryo looks like, and what it is able to hear and feel.

Does the Fetus Feel Pain?
The latest medical data we have access to estimates that a fetus can not feel pain until at least 28 weeks' gestation. (about the 7th month). To see the lates article, go to this article at JAMA (Journal of American Medicine) which is a neutral medical group, and has no interest in promoting or discouraging abortion. JAMA Fetal Pain Article

Determining the Gender:
How could you know if your potential baby was a boy or girl? The gender of the fetus is determined at the moment of conception. However for the first 7 weeks the fetus is undifferentiated by appearance - only an examination of the chromosones can indicate the gender. You cannot tell by visual examination such as a sonogram. The physical differentiation begins to occur at about 10 weeks, but is not clearly identifiable on a sonogram until 12-14 weeks. With an intra-vaginal ultrasound, it may be possible to determine the likelihood of gender at around 10 weeks. This is rare at this point.

  • If your abortion was at 14 weeks or later, a woman may know the sex through a sonogram, or through the opinion of the Dr. who performed her procedure.
  • If your abortion was before 12 or 14 weeks, you usually will not know the gender. So how can women say their baby was a boy or girl if they had an abortion before 12-14 weeks?
    In these cases, it's just the woman going with her feelings, her gut instinct that tells her what gender she thought the baby was. As part of the healing process, some women give their baby a gender and a name.

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