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Abortion methods vary depending to some extent on the preferences of the physician and, of course, on the term of the pregnancy and the resulting stage of the unborn child’s development. Between 85 and 90 percent of the approximately 1.3 million abortions performed each year in the United States take place in the first three months of pregnancy, which is to say in the first trimester. Planned Parenthood, 320 F. Supp. 2d, at 960, and n. 4; App. in No. 05-1382, pp. 45-48. The most common first-trimester abortion method is vacuum aspiration (otherwise known as suction curettage) in which the physician vacuums out the embryonic tissue. Early in this trimester an alternative is to use medication, such as mifepristone (commonly known as RU-486), to terminate the pregnancy. Nat. Abortion Federation, supra, at 464, n. 20. The Act does not regulate these procedures. 

Of the remaining abortions that take place each year, most occur in the second trimester. The surgical procedure referred to as “dilation and evacuation” or “D&E” is the usual abortion method in this trimester. Planned Parenthood, 320 F. Supp. 2d, at 960-961. Although individual techniques for performing D&E differ, the general steps are ...

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