Abortion Overview

Chemically Induced Abortion

Alternately, in pregnancies that are past the twenty-second week of development, it is possible to induce labor chemically causing the fetus to be expelled through the vaginal opening.

Unlike the other procedures, this procedure is generally performed in a hospital. A needle is inserted through the abdominal wall into the uterus and a labor-inducing medication (such as prostaglandin, urea, or saline solution or some combination of these) is injected. Within a few hours, the woman begins labor and the fetus is expelled.

Regardless of the method used, women who have undergone an abortion should be checked for blood pressure and heart rate, and monitored to insure that bleeding and discomfort are limited. One or more follow-up appointments may be arranged several weeks after the abortion to insure that the procedure has been successful and that the woman is healthy.

In abortions performed before the 13th week of pregnancy, some follow-up surgery, for example, to remove a blood clot or to repair a tear in the cervix, is needed in only 0.5% of cases. In abortions performed between13 and 24 weeks, complications are somewhat more frequent, in part because of the use of a general anesthesia. The death rate for women who have medical abortions is one in 160,000. By comparison, in full term pregnancies, the death rate is one for every 16,000 successful deliveries.

One Million Abortions a Year

In the years before abortion was legal, from the late 1800s until the famous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973, more pregnant women died from infections, retained placentas, poisoning, shock, profuse bleeding and other complications brought on by self-induced abortions or abortions performed by unqualified practitioners than from any other single cause. In parts of the world where abortion is still illegal, these remain a leading cause of maternal death. By contrast, today's legal medical abortion is one of the most common and safest surgical procedures in the U.S. Approximately 1.3 million women choose to have a medical abortion performed each year.

Major complications and side effects occur in only about 1% of medical abortions. Some women experience menstrual-like cramping during an abortion and for up to an hour afterward. Most women report that this cramping is uncomfortable but not painful.

Vaginal bleeding, similar to a menstrual period, generally occurs after an abortion is completed. For the most part, the earlier in pregnancy an abortion is performed, the less likely there will be medical complications.

Despite the limited complications and risks involved, medical abortion is one of the most controversial domestic issues in American society.

Copyright 2002 Sinclair Intimacy Institute

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