Using graphic terms, Donald Trump during Wednesday night’s debate described one of the most controversial, and exceedingly rare, abortion procedures: those that happen at the very end of pregnancies.
Trump said these terminations involve "rip[ping] the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”
He is most likely referring to the procedure known as “intact dilation and extraction,” which is sometimes called partial-birth abortion. This procedure, which is used for abortions in the third term of pregnancy as well as later-term miscarriages, involves dilating the woman’s cervix and pulling the entire fetus through the birth canal.
The procedure became a hot political topic during George W. Bush’s presidency, when Congress passed a bill banning “partial-birth abortions,” except for when the woman’s life is in danger. The Supreme Court upheld the ban in 2007.
Forty-three states impose certain restrictions on some abortions after a certain point in pregnancy.
Only 1.3% of abortions performed in the United States occur after the 21st week of pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think thank that supports abortion rights. The vast majority — 91% of abortions performed in 2012 — occur in the first 13 weeks.
Although Trump has asserted his antiabortion beliefs in this campaign, he used to be in favor of abortion rights. When asked in 1999 by Tim Russert about the procedure, he said he was "pro-choice in every respect” and would not ban partial-birth abortions.