When abortions are illegal, certain medical instruments can be a giveaway. For this reason, specific tools have never been developed or sold for this procedure.

Instead, doctors, back-street abortionists and pregnant women themselves used whatever was available, items that were more or less suitable for their purposes: knitting needles, wire clothes hangers, urinary catheters and a wide variety of other objects, providing they were long enough to reach into the uterus.

In places where abortions were illegal, pregnant women tend to ignore their condition for as long as possible, thereby wasting valuable time until they find help. For this reason, abortions are often performed at an extremely late date, at some point in the second trimester on the average.

Whatever instrument is being used is then inserted through the cervix to open the amniotic sac. This induces labour, resulting in expulsion of the embryo.