This abortion procedure (although comparatively rare) is essentially the same as a caesarian section birth: the mother's abdomen is cut open and the child - typically still alive - is removed from the womb.

In Britain, although there has always been a legal duty of care towards a liveborn baby who survives an abortion, there have been documented cases of such babies being left to die.

Since 1990 legislation has allowed the deliberate destruction of a child up to birth when a pregnancy is terminated under the relevant grounds in the Abortion Act. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the professional body to which most doctors performing abortions belong, issued advice to its members in a 1996 paper Termination of Pregnancy for Fetal Abnormality.

They advised surgeons to take steps to kill the baby before delivery,e.g. by cutting the umbilical cord to stop the infant's oxygen supply. This was to avoid the risk of possible legal action if a baby should be 'liveborn' and then die after abortion.


The risks of hysterotomy for the mother have long been known. They include peritonitis, rupture of the operation scar in a future pregnancy, thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (The [Lane] Report on the Working of the Abortion Act, Vol 1, HMSO, 1974).