Considering Abortion? Get the Facts First.
Facing an unplanned pregnancy can be a scary and stressful experience. Before you make a choice regarding your pregnancy, we encourage you to take the time to research and explore your options with someone who is not directly involved in your situation. Our counselors are here to listen and help. The Pregnancy Centers do not refer for or perform abortion services, but will provide specific, medically-accurate information on abortion procedures and risks. Learn more about abortion procedures and the associated risks below.
Make sure you get the facts to make an informed decision, a decision that you can feel good about.
- Are you feeling pressured to abort? Find out what to do about the pressure now.
- If you’re in the middle of an education at a school or university, we can help. Read more about what you can do about school.
- Get answers to a list of frequently asked questions about abortion and pregnancy now.
Abortion is not just a simple procedure; it may have many side effects. Abortion has been associated with preterm birth, emotional and psychological impact, and spiritual consequences. Please contact our center so that you can make an informed decision.
First Trimester Suction Abortion: About 4 to 13 weeks after last menstrual period (LMP)
This surgical abortion is done throughout the first trimester. Varying degrees of pain control are offered ranging from local anesthetic (typically) to full general anesthesia. For very early pregnancies (4-7 weeks LMP), a long, thin tube is inserted into the uterus which is attached to a manual suction device and the embryo is suctioned out.
Late in the first trimester, the cervix needs to be opened wider because the fetus is larger. The cervix may be softened the day before using medication placed in the vagina and/or slowly stretched open using thin rods made of seaweed inserted into the cervix. The day of the procedure, the cervix may need further stretching by metal dilating rods. This can be painful, so local anesthesia is typically used. Next, the doctor inserts a plastic tube into the uterus and applies suction by either an electric or manual vacuum device. The suction pulls the fetus’ body apart and out of the uterus. The doctor may also use a loop-shaped tool, called a curette, to scrape any remaining fetal parts out of the uterus.
Dilation and Evacuation (D&E): About 13 to 24 weeks after LMP
This surgical abortion is done during the second trimester of pregnancy. In this procedure, the cervix must be opened wider than in a first trimester abortion because the fetus is larger. This is done by inserting numerous thin rods made of seaweed a day or two before the abortion and/or giving other oral or vaginal medications to further soften the cervix. Up to 16 weeks gestation, the procedue is identical to the first trimester one (mentioned above). After the cervix is stretched open and the uterine contents suctioned out, any remaining fetal parts are removed with a grasping tool (forceps). A loop-shaped tool (called a curette) is also used to scrape out the contents of the uterus, removing any remaining tissue.
After 16 weeks, much of the procedure is done with the forceps to pull fetal parts out through the cervical opening, as suction alone will not work due to the fetus’ size. The doctor keeps track of what fetal parts have been removed so that none are left inside as this can potentially cause infection. Lastly, a curette and/or the suction machine are used to remove any remaining tissue or blood clots, which if left behind could cause infection and bleeding.
Medication Methods for 2nd Trimester Induced Abortion
This technique induces abortion by using medicines to cause labor and eventual delivery of the fetus and placenta. Like labor at term, this procedure typically involves 10-24 hours in a hospital’s labor & delivery unit. Digoxin or potassium chloride is injected into the amniotic fluid, umbilical cord or fetal heart prior to labor to avoid the delivery of a live fetus. The cervix is softened with the use of seaweed sticks and/or medications. Next, oral mifepristone and oral or vaginal misoprostol are used to induce labor. In most cases, these drugs result in the delivery of the dead fetus and placenta. The patient may receive oral or intravenous pain medications. Occassionally, scraping of the uterus is needed to remove the placenta.
Potential complications include hemorrhage and the need for a blood transfusion, retained placenta and possible uterine rupture (splits open).
Dilation & Extraction (Partial-Birth Abortion): From about 24 weeks after LMP to full-term
This procedure typically takes 2-3 days and is associated with increased risk to the life and health of the mother. Because a live birth is possible, injections are given to cause fetal death. This is done in order to comply with the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 which requires that the fetus be dead before complete removal from the mother’s body. The medications (digoxin and potassium chloride) are either injected into the amniotic fluid, the umbilical cord, or directly into the fetus’ heart. The reminder of the procedure is the same as the second trimester D&E. Fetal parts are reassembled after removal from the uterus to make sure nothing is left behind to cause infection.
An alternate technique, called “Intact D&E” is also used. The goal is to remove the fetus in one piece, thus reducing the risk of leaving fetal parts behind or causing damage to the woman’s body. The procedure requires the cervix be opened wider; however, it is still ofen necessary to crush the fetus’ skull for removal as it is difficult to dilate the cervix wide enough to bring the head out intact.
RU-486, Mifeprex/Mifepristone (Abortion Pill): Within 4 to 7 weeks after LMP
This drug is only FDA approved for use in women up to the 49th day after their last menstrual period; however it is commonly used “off label” up to 63 days. The procedure usually requires three office visits. On the first visit, the woman is given pills (mifepristone) to cause the death of the embryo. Two days later, if the abortion has not occurred, she is given a second drug (misoprostol) which causes cramping to expel the embryo. The last visit is to determine if the procedure has been completed.
RU-486 will not work in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. This is a potentially life-threatening condition in which the embryo lodges outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. If an ectopic pregnancy is not diagnosed early, the tube may burst, causing internal bleeding and in some cases, the death of the woman.
Consider the Risks of Abortion
Side effects may occur with induced abortion, whether surgical or by pill. These include abdominal pain and cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Abortion also carries the risk of significant complications such as bleeding, infection, and damage to organs. Serious complications occur in less than 1 out of 100 early abortions and in about 1 out of every 50 later abortions. Complications may include:
- Heavy Bleeding — Some bleeding after abortion is normal. However, if the cervix is torn or the uterus is punctured, there is a risk of severe bleeding known as hemorrhaging. When this happens, a blood transfusion may be required. Severe bleeding is also a risk with the use of RU486. One in 100 women who use RU486 will require surgery to stop the bleeding.
- Infection – Infection can develop from the insertion of medical instruments into the uterus, or from fetal parts that are mistakenly left inside (known as an incomplete abortion). A pelvic infection may lead to persistent fever over several days and extended hospitalization. It can also cause scarring of the pelvic organs.
- Incomplete Abortion – Some fetal parts may be mistakenly left inside after the abortion. Bleeding and infection may result.
- Sepsis – A number of RU486 or mifepristone users have died as a result of sepsis (total body infection).
- Anesthesia – Complications from general anesthesia used during abortion surgery may result in convulsions, heart attack, and in extreme cases, death. It also increases the risk of other serious complications by two and a half times.
- Damage to the Cervix – The cervix may be cut, torn, or damaged by abortion instruments. This can cause excessive bleeding that requires surgical repair.
- Scarring of the Uterine Lining – Suction tubing, curettes, and other abortion instruments may cause permanent scarring of the uterine lining and may affect future pregnancies.
- Perforation of the Uterus – The uterus may be punctured or torn by abortion instruments. The risk of this complication increases with the length of the pregnancy. If this occurs, major surgery may be required, including removal of the uterus (known as a hysterectomy).
- Damage to Internal Organs – When the uterus is punctured or torn, there is also a risk that damage will occur to nearby organs such as the bowel and bladder.
- Death – In extreme cases, other physical complications from abortion including excessive bleeding, infection, organ damage from a perforated uterus, and adverse reactions to anesthesia may lead to death. This complication is rare, but is real.
Other Risks of Abortion
Abortion and Preterm Birth:
Women who undergo one or more induced abortions carry a significantly increased risk of delivering prematurely in the future. Premature delivery is associated with higher rates of cerebral palsy, as well as other complications of prematurity (brain, respiratory, bowel, and eye problems).
Abortion and Breast Cancer:
Medical experts are still researching and debating the linkage between abortion and breast cancer. Here are some important facts:
- Carrying your first pregnancy to full term gives protection against breast cancer. Choosing abortion causes loss of that protection.
- A number of reliable studies have concluded that there may be a link between abortion and the later development of breast cancer.
In over 35 studies done to date, nearly 80% of them show a definite link between abortions and breast cancer.
Emotional and Psychological Impact:
There is evidence that abortion is associated with a decrease in both emotional and physical health. For some women these negative emotions may be very strong, and can appear within days or after many years. This psychological response is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the symptoms are:
- Eating disorders
- Relationship problems
- Flashbacks of abortion
- Suicidal thoughts
- Sexual dysfunction
- Alcohol and drug abuse
People have different understandings of God. Whatever your present beliefs may be, there is a spiritual side to abortion that deserves to be considered. Having an abortion may affect more than just your body and your mind — it may have an impact on your relationship with God. What is God’s desire for you in this situation? How does God see your unborn child? These are important questions to consider.
Our centers offer peer counseling and accurate information about all pregnancy options; however we do not offer or refer for abortion services.