Abortion is not just a simple medical procedure. For many women, it is a life changing event with significant physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences. Most women who struggle with past abortions say that they wish they had been told all of the facts about abortion and its risks. The following information will help you understand more about abortion procedures and the risks associated with abortion.
Morning After Pill (MAP): within 72 hours of sexual intercourse
Also known as “Emergency Contraception,” this procedure consists of a pregnancy test and two doses of pills. The woman first must take a pregnancy test and receive a negative test result before taking the pills. If a negative test result occurs from the pregnancy test, then the woman is instructed to take the first dose of the Morning After Pill. Note: a negative result indicates that the woman is probably not pregnant from intercourse during her previous monthly cycle, but it will not show whether or not she just became pregnant (from intercourse the “night before”). She is instructed to take this first dose as soon as possible, but not more than 72 hours after intercourse. The woman takes a second dose 12 hours after the first dose. If conception already occurred within the 72 hour time frame (that is the “night before”), the life is expelled. This is an early abortion.
RU 486, Mifepristone: within 4 to 7 weeks after Last Menstrual Period
Also known as the Abortion Pill, this medical abortion is used for women who are within 28 to 49 days after their last menstrual period. This procedure usually requires three office visits. The RU 486 or mifepristone pills are given to the woman who returns two days later for a second medication called misoprostol. The combination of these medications causes the uterus to expel the fetus.
Early Vacuum Aspiration: within 7 weeks after Last Menstrual Period
This surgical abortion is done early in the pregnancy up until 7 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. The cervical muscle is stretched with dilators (metal rods) until the opening is wide enough to allow the abortion instruments to pass into the uterus. A hand held syringe is attached to tubing that is inserted into the uterus and the fetus is suctioned out.
Suction Curettage: within 6 to 14 weeks after Last Menstrual Period
In this procedure, the doctor opens the cervix with a dilator (a metal rod) or laminaria (thin sticks derived from plants and inserted several hours before the procedure). The doctor inserts tubing into the uterus and connects the tubing to a suction machine. The suction pulls the fetus’ body apart and out of the uterus. One variation of this procedure is called Dilation and Curettage (D&C). In this method, the doctor may use a curette, a loop-shaped knife, to scrape the fetal parts out of the uterus.
Dilation and Evacuation (D&E): within 13 to 24 weeks after Last Menstrual Period
This surgical abortion is done during the second trimester of pregnancy. Because the developing fetus doubles in size between the thirteenth and fourteenth weeks of pregnancy, the body of the fetus is too large to be broken up by suction and will not pass through the suction tubing. In this procedure, the cervix must be opened wider than in a first trimester abortion. This is done by inserting laminaria a day or two before the abortion. After opening the cervix, the doctor pulls out the fetal parts with forceps. The fetus’ skull is crushed to ease removal.
Dilation and Extraction (D&X): from 20 weeks after Last Menstrual Period to full-term
Also known as Partial-birth Abortion, this procedure takes three days. During the first two days, the cervix is dilated and medication is given for cramping. On the third day, the woman receives medication to start labor. After labor begins, the abortion doctor uses ultrasound to locate the baby’s legs. Grasping a leg with forceps, the doctor delivers the baby up to the baby’s head. Next, scissors are inserted into the base of the skull to create an opening. A suction catheter is placed into the opening to remove the skull contents. The skull collapses and the baby is removed.
Immediate Risks of Abortion
Induced abortion carries a risk of several side effects. These risks include abdominal pain and cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In most abortions, no serious complications occur. However, the risk of complications is about 1 out of every 100 early abortions and in about 1 out of every 50 later abortions. Such complications may include:
- Heavy Bleeding – Some bleeding after abortion is normal. However, there is a risk of hemorrhage, especially if the uterine artery is torn. When this happens, a blood transfusion may be required.
- Infection – There is a risk that bacteria may get into the uterus from an incomplete abortion resulting in infection. A serious infection may lead to persistent fever over several days and extended hospitalization.
- Incomplete Abortion – There is a risk that some fetal parts may not be removed by the abortion. Bleeding and infection may occur. RU 486 may fail in up to 1 out of every 20 cases.
- Allergic Reaction to Drugs – There is a risk of an allergic reaction to the anesthesia used during abortion surgery. These risks include convulsions, heart attack and, in extreme cases, death.
- Tearing of the Cervix – There is a risk that the cervix may be cut or torn by abortion instruments.
- Scarring of the Uterine Lining – There is a risk that suction tubing, curettes, and other abortion instruments may cause permanent scarring of the uterine lining.
- Perforation of the Uterus – There is a risk that 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, including a hysterectomy, may be required.
- 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, there is a risk of 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 very rare and occurs, on average, in less than 20 cases per year.
What Are Some of the Other Risks of Abortion?
Abortion may increase the risk of Breast Cancer
Medical experts are still researching and debating the linkage between abortion and breast cancer. However, a 1994 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found: “Among women who had been pregnant at least once, the risk of breast cancer in those who had experienced an induced abortion was 50% higher than among other women.”
Here are other important facts:
- Carrying a pregnancy to full term gives protection against breast cancer that does not occur if the pregnancy is aborted.
- Abortion causes a sudden drop in estrogen levels that may make breast cells more susceptible to cancer.
- Most studies conducted so far show a significant link between abortion and breast cancer.
Abortion May Effect Risk Levels in Future Pregnancies
Scarring or other injury during an abortion may prevent or place at risk future wanted pregnancies. The risk of miscarriage is greater for women who abort their first pregnancy.
Abortion May Increase the Risk of Emotional Problems
Some women experience strong negative emotions after abortion. Sometimes this occurs within days and sometimes it happens after many years. This psychological response is known as Post-Abortion Stress (PAS). Several factors that increase the risk of Post-Abortion Stress include: the woman’s age, the abortion circumstances, the stage of pregnancy at which the abortion occurs, and the woman’s religious beliefs.
Post-Abortion Stress Symptoms include
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Anniversary Grief
- Flashbacks of Abortion
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Relationship Problems
- Eating Disorders
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse
- Psychological Reactions
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.