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Abortion is a medical procedure to effect fetal demise (death of the fetus). As with any medically induced chemical or surgical process, patients are advised to understand the risks of complications and/or side-effects.

Below are some questions commonly asked about abortion.

Q: What are the health risks to having an abortion?
A: Risks of any surgical abortion include hemorrhage, infection, infertility, and complications with future pregnancies (i.e. incompetent cervix).

There may be other risks for you including emotional complications. It is best to seek medical advice before proceeding with any type of surgical procedure. Your local Enlightened Woman partner center offers a free medical consultation with no further obligation. Click here for more information about your local participating medical center.

Q: Will my life be the same after an abortion?
A: If you are pregnant, your life has changed already. Whether you choose abortion, adoption or parenting, your life will be quite different a year from now compared to today. Take the time to make your best decision. Your local Enlightened Woman partner center can schedule a free pregnancy consultation to fully explore your options. Click here for more information about your local participating medical center.

Q: How are abortions done?
A: The following is a description of the various types of surgical and chemical abortion procedures currently performed in the United States.

Click on a link below to learn about that procedure.

RU-486 (Mifepristone) | Suction-Aspiration | Dilation and Curettage (D & C) | Dilation and Evacuation (D & E) | Prostaglandin | Dilation and Extraction (D & X)

RU-486 (Mifepristone)
RU-486, or Mifepristone, is a chemical method of inducing abortion. It is taken only when a woman is pregnant, up to seven weeks after the beginning of her last menstrual period.

The drug works by blocking progesterone, a crucial hormone during pregnancy. Without progesterone, the uterine lining does not provide food, fluid and oxygen to the developing fetus.

This procedure requires three visits to the abortion provider. During the first visit a dosage of Mifepristone is taken. Then, two days later, a second drug is taken that stimulates the uterus to contract and expel the fetus. Finally, 12 more days later a follow-up examination is required to ensure the fetus has been expelled.

According to one manufacturer, bleeding and cramping are normal occurrences with this procedure. Side effects may include nausea, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue and back pain. Additionally, one out of 100 women require surgical intervention to stop heavy bleeding. (Ref 1)

(1) “What Every Provider Should Know”, MIFEPREX / Danco Laboratories (

In this method, the cervical muscle is paralyzed and stretched open. A hollow plastic tube with a knifelike edge is inserted into the uterus. Suction is used to remove the fetus, and the placenta is cut from the uterine wall.

Dilation and Curettage (D & C)
This procedure is similar to suction-aspiration, though rather than a suction tube this method relies on a loop-shaped steel knife called a curette. The curette is inserted into the uterus and the fetus and placenta are scraped away. Bleeding can be heavy with this method.

Dilation and Evacuation (D & E)
This type of abortion is done after the third month of pregnancy.

First, the cervix is dilated. Then, e.g., Laminaria sticks (made of sterilized, compressed seaweed) are commonly inserted into the cervix. These sticks absorb moisture and expand. A pliers-like instrument is inserted through the cervix into the uterus and used to tear away parts of the fetus.

Prostaglandin is a hormone that is used to induce labor in mid- and late-term pregnancies. To prevent a live birth, the fetus may be injected with drugs to ensure fetal demise prior to delivery.

Dilation and Extraction (D & X)
This procedure, commonly referred to as "partial-birth" abortion, is also used in mid- and late-term pregnancies (from 4 to 9 months).

First, ultrasound is used to identify how the fetus is facing in the womb. Then, forceps are inserted through the cervical canal into the uterus and used to pull the fetus feet first and face down (breech position). The body is then pulled out of the birth canal, save for the crown of the head. Surgical scissors are inserted into the base of the skull and spread to enlarge the wound and inflict fetal demise. A suction catheter is then inserted into the skull and the brain is removed. Finally, the skull is collapsed, and the dead fetus is fully delivered through the vaginal canal.

Q: I'm feeling guilt from a past abortion. Is this normal?
A: Many women have found that they have feelings of guilt and confusion following abortion. Your local partner center may be able to help you in this regard. Click here for more information about your local participating medical center.

Q: If I have an abortion, will my baby feel pain?
A: Because circumstances vary, the answer to this question will depend both on the stage of fetal development and method of abortion performed.

It has been determined that at about eight weeks a fetus can feel pain. It is at this point in development that the following necessary structures are in place: sensory nerves (which detect pain), the thalamus (part of the brain that receives pain message from sensory nerves), and motor nerves (which are directed by the brain to pull away from the hurt).

In addition, by 13 1/2 to 14 weeks, the entire body surface, except for the back and the top of the head, are sensitive to pain.

Q: What is "Roe vs. Wade"?
A: This refers to a U.S. Supreme Court case ruled on January 22, 1973 that a constitutional "right to privacy" exists which protects a woman's decision to have an abortion. The court at that time established a trimester system that defined the parameters surrounding legal abortions.


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