Pregnancy Termination

Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus.[note 1] An abortion that occurs without intervention is known as a miscarriage or “spontaneous abortion” and occurs in approximately 30% to 40% of pregnancies.[1][2] When deliberate steps are taken to end a pregnancy, it is called an induced abortion, or less frequently “induced miscarriage”. The unmodified word abortion generally refers to an induced abortion.[3][4]

When properly done, abortion is one of the safest procedures in medicine,[5]:1 [6]:1 but unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal death, especially in the developing world,[7] while making safe abortion legal and accessible reduces maternal deaths.[8][9] It is safer than childbirth, which has a 14 times higher risk of death in the United States.[10]

Modern methods use medication or surgery for abortions.[11] The drug mifepristone in combination with prostaglandin appears to be as safe and effective as surgery during the first and second trimester of pregnancy.[11][12] The most common surgical technique involves dilating the cervix and using a suction device.[13] Birth control, such as the pill or intrauterine devices, can be used immediately following abortion.[12] When performed legally and safely on a woman who desires it, induced abortions do not increase the risk of long-term mental or physical problems.[14] In contrast, unsafe abortions (those performed by unskilled individuals, with hazardous equipment, or in unsanitary facilities) cause 47,000 deaths and 5 million hospital admissions each year.[14][15] The World Health Organization states that “access to legal, safe and comprehensive abortion care, including post-abortion care, is essential for the attainment of the highest possible level of sexual and reproductive health”.[16]

Around 56 million abortions are performed each year in the world,[17] with about 45% done unsafely.[18] Abortion rates changed little between 2003 and 2008,[19] before which they decreased for at least two decades as access to family planning and birth control increased.[20] As of 2018, 37% of the world’s women had access to legal abortions without limits as to reason.[21][22] Countries that permit abortions have different limits on how late in pregnancy abortion is allowed.[22] Abortion rates are similar between countries that ban abortion and countries that allow it.[23]

Historically, abortions have been attempted using herbal medicines, sharp tools, forceful massage, or through other traditional methods.[24] Abortion laws and cultural or religious views of abortions are different around the world. In some areas, abortion is legal only in specific cases such as rapefetal defectspoverty, risk to a woman’s health, or incest.[25] There is debate over the moral, ethical, and legal issues of abortion.[26][27] Those who oppose abortion often argue that an embryo or fetus is a person with a right to life, and they may compare abortion to murder.[28][29] Those who support the legality of abortion often hold that it is part of a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.[30] Others favor legal and accessible abortion as a public health measure.[31]


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