What Is An Abortion?
An abortion is a very common medical procedure that uses various methods to end an established pregnancy before birth, generally within the first twelve weeks of gestation. A medical abortion may be performed in a doctor’s office or at home. While it is a fairly taboo topic, it’s also a very common procedure: one in three women will have an abortion before the age of 45.
If you are pregnant, you should be aware of your options, including abortion. Deciding to have an abortion is a major decision with both emotional and psychological consequences.
If you are under age eighteen, your state may require one or both of your parents to give permission: Here is a state-by-state listing of abortion parental consent and notification laws.
What Is the Difference Between The Abortion Pill and Surgical Abortion?
1) The abortion pill or chemical abortion is an abortion that involves taking medication (Plan B, RU-486, and mifepristone or methotrexate along with misoprostol) to terminate a pregnancy and works up until 10 weeks gestation. Often known as “Plan B,” this medication is available over-the-counter at most pharmacies. This allows a woman to have an abortion at home.
It can take anywhere from a single day to four days after a woman takes the pills for the abortion to be complete. The length of time depends upon which medications are used (mifepristone generally takes less time than methotrexate).
During the chemical abortion, women will experience vaginal bleeding after the first drug is taken. The bleeding may be very light or like a heavy period. After the misoprostol is taken, cramping and bleeding begin – more cramping and bleeding than associated with a normal menstrual period. These cramps and clots should last several hours before the greyish gestational sac is passed. Most women take these drugs and expel the embryo at home, which means that she should be prepared for this. The clinic staff should provide guidance as to how to best prepare and what to expect.
If abdominal cramping or flu-like symptoms last greater than 24 hours, a woman should call her abortion provider. A menstrual cycle following a medical abortion may be longer or different than a normal menstrual cycle, but by the second cycle, the cycle should return to normal.
Common Symptoms Associated With The Abortion Pill:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Mild fever or chills
Serious Complications of the Abortion Pill:
Call your doctor IMMEDIATELY if you experience any of the following:
- Clots for two or more hours which are larger than a lemon
- Heavy vaginal bleeding: soaking through two or more maxi-pads for two hours in a row
- Fever over 100.4 degrees for over four hours
- Abdominal pain that cannot be managed with medication, heating pad or rest
- Vomiting for more than four hours so severe you cannot keep anything down
- Smelly, unpleasant vaginal discharge
- Any signs you’re still pregnant
2) Surgical or In-Clinic Abortion is what most people think of as abortion, in which a woman goes to a clinic and ends a pregnancy with the aid of medical doctors, nurses, and surgical anesthesia. A surgical abortion works by emptying the uterus with special instruments. Planned Parenthood provides additional information regarding surgical abortions here.
Surgical or In-Clinic Abortion is an option for terminating a pregnancy. The cervix is gradually opened with tapered rods until it is wide enough for a cannula to fit through. A cannula attached to some sort of suction machine is inserted into the cervix and the contents of the uterus are emptied by suction. This type of abortion is highly effective and completed within minutes. It allows for sedation, can be used in early pregnancy and generally requires only one visit to the provider.
There are two types of in-clinic abortion procedures.
- Aspiration: This is the most common type of abortion performed, typically before 16 weeks gestation.
- D&E (Dilation and Evacuation): This type of abortion is performed normally after 16 weeks gestation.
Common Problems After an In-Clinic Abortion:
- Heavy bleeding for a few days with minor bleeding and spotting for several weeks
- Undetected ectopic pregnancy
- Injury to the uterus or cervix
- Incomplete removal of pregnancy
- Blood clots in the uterus
Serious Complications of In-Clinic Abortions:
Call your doctor IMMEDIATELY if you experience any of the following:
- Very heavy bleeding: the passing of clots larger than a lemon or soaking through two or more pads in an hour
- Pain not helped by medication, heating pads or rest
- Unpleasant, smelly vaginal discharge
- Signs you are still pregnant
Why Do Women Choose To Have Abortions?
A woman’s reasons for choosing to terminate a pregnancy are highly personal and should never be discounted. A woman can choose to have an abortion for any reason that feels right for her. Some of the reasons a woman may choose to have an abortion can include – but is not limited to – the following:
- They were abused, in an abusive relationship, and/or sexually assaulted
- They are not physically healthy enough to carry a baby
- They’re not ready to be a parent yet
- They cannot afford a new baby
- They want to focus on their living children
- They need to be able to achieve their goals: finishing school, finding a good job
- They cannot sustain or cope with a baby with their romantic partner
Many anti-abortion groups claim that having an abortion increases a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer and endangers future childbearing. These groups claim that women who have had abortions without complications are more likely to experience infertility, become unable to carry a pregnancy to term, develop ectopic pregnancies, deliver stillborn babies, or become sterile. This propaganda is designed to make a pregnant woman carry their pregnancy to term and can cause severe guilt, anger, fear, and other emotional reactions in pregnant women who may consider abortions.
These claims have been refuted by a significant amount of medical research.
It is also worth noting that having an abortion does not make you a bad person, weak, stupid, or wrong – you must do what is right for you with each pregnancy. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should feel.
Preventing After-Abortion Complications:
There are some things women can do to lower their risks for post-abortion complications. The first way to reduce complications is to have the abortion early. Generally speaking, the earlier the abortion occurs, the safer. Asking questions about the procedure, what to expect and what to do to prepare, is really important.
- Any woman choosing to have an abortion should:
- Find a good clinic or qualified practitioner
- Tell the practitioner about any medical problems, usage of current medications or street drugs, medication allergies and all other health information
- Follow post-operative instructions
- Return for a follow-up exam
Later-Term Abortions: Because earlier abortions are less complicated, they are typically safer than later-term abortions. It is important that any woman seeking an abortion do so as soon as possible. However, there are compelling reasons that a woman would have a later-term abortion.
- Undiagnosed Pregnancy – due to various reasons, many women do not realize they are pregnant until the pregnancy is advanced.
- Maternal Medical Complications – pregnant women, like anyone else, are susceptible to cancer, heart disease, depression, and other serious health problems. Treatments, vital to the survival of the mother, may be ceased if a woman is pregnant.
- Tragic Events – while a pregnancy may have been well-planned or eagerly anticipated, tragedy – such as a debilitating disease, car wreck, job loss, or natural disaster – may lead a woman to believe that it is the wrong time to have a baby.
- Severe Fetal Abnormalities – through routine prenatal testing, it may be discovered that a fetus has severe abnormalities – anencephaly, severe metabolic disorder, or other severe abnormalities – that may lead a woman to decide it is better to terminate a pregnancy than to allow a child to suffer and die in infancy.
- Lack of Money – many women, due to economic circumstances, cannot afford to pay for a first-trimester abortion and must save up to obtain a later term abortion.
Emotional Issues After an Abortion:
While most people feel relief after having an abortion, it’s completely normal to feel other emotions, too. Women choose to have abortions for many reasons, but generally, it is because pregnancy is, at that time, wrong for them. Even if abortion were the best option for the woman, it’s normal for emotions, post-abortion, to be all over the place. Many women feel regret, shame, guilt, sadness, and anger.
Some women feel comforted by talking to a friend, family member or counselor about their abortion. Feelings of loss resulting from a lack of support by someone close shouldn’t be confused with regret about having an abortion. Most women, while having many conflicting emotions, report that their feelings are manageable.
If you are feeling any of these emotions and find them interfering with your ability to carry on your daily duties, please seek help from a doctor or therapist. You can also contact Exhale, an after-abortion talk-line.
How Much Does An Abortion Cost?
The cost of abortions at health centers ranges from about $350 to $950 (costs vary depending upon how far along you are and what clinic you go to) for a first-trimester abortion. The cost is generally higher for a second-trimester abortion. Hospital abortions tend to cost more.
Most insurance companies offer some benefit for elective abortions. Contact your insurance provider for details. Insurance is covered by Medicaid generally only in instances of life-endangerment, rape, and child sexual abuse. Check with your state. The military only covers elective abortions in the case of life endangerment.
Contact the National Abortion Federation to see if you qualify for a loan or financial assistance for an elective abortion: 1-800-772-9100
How Do I Find An Abortion Provider?
You can call National Abortion Federation at call 1-877-257-0012
Planned Parenthood also has an abortion clinic locator with over 800 locations around the country.
Exhale is an after-abortion talk-line that serves women who have abortions and their partners, friends, and family. They respect all various cultural, social, and religious beliefs.
National Abortion Federation: For unbiased information about abortion and other resources, including financial assistance, call toll-free: 1-800-772-9100
National Abortion Federation Abortion Provider Finder: 1-877-257-0012
Additional Abortion Resources:
Planned Parenthood is the leading source for abortion and reproductive health information.
Exhale is an after-abortion support site. It’s confidential and serves those who have had abortions or their friends, families, and partners.
National Abortion Federation: The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in North America. They believe that women should be trusted to make private medical decisions in consultation with their health care providers. NAF currently offers quality training and services to abortion providers and unbiased information and referral services to women.
A list of state-by-state restrictions on abortion (I cannot believe I had to type this)
This page last audited 6/2018 BSH