General Information About Abortion

Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy before birth. Popularly, the term abortion refers to the deliberate or induced termination of a pregnancy, whereas the spontaneous termination of a pregnancy is commonly called a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion.

Question: Why might a physician recommend a deliberate or induced abortion?

A physician might recommend an abortion if tests (for example, amniocentesis) show that the fetus is likely to develop such a severe abnormality as spina bifida or another genetic defect. A pregnancy is often deliberately terminated if the mother’s health is seriously at risk. But the primary reason for voluntary abortion in the U.S. is birth control. In countries where abortion is permitted, there are strict laws that must be complied with. All states of the U.S. permit voluntary abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy.

Question: How is a medically induced abortion performed?

In early pregnancy, an abortion is generally performed using either minor surgery, such as dilatation and curettage, or a suction apparatus. In a pregnancy of four months or more, a concentrated hormone and salt solution may be injected into the womb. This stimulates the womb to expel the fetus. There are also various drugs, called abortifacients, that are sometimes used to induce abortion, but many of these contain the potentially dangerous drug ergot. Alternatively a surgeon performs an operation to open the womb and remove the fetus.

Question: Is an induced abortion dangerous to the woman?

A medical abortion in early pregnancy, properly conducted, is a safe and minor operation. It can be performed in a clinic or with brief hospitalization.

An abortion performed by an unskilled person and without sterile conditions exposes the patient to the risk of infection, hemorrhage, future infertility, or even death.

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