Abortion - What to Think About
options are affected by your medical history, how many weeks pregnant you are,
and what options are available in your region. Not all medical or surgical
choices for an abortion are available in all parts of the United States or
around the world. In the U.S., individual states have restrictions on abortion,
such as requiring a waiting period, requiring parental consent for young women
under a certain age, or limiting options for pregnancies between 13 and 24
weeks (second trimester).
The following table lists some of the
differences between the most commonly used medical and surgical abortion
Comparing medical abortion and surgical abortion3
|Medical abortion||Surgical abortion|
Usually prevents a need for surgical treatment
Is invasive and/or surgical:
vacuum aspiration (MVA) uses a tube attached to a
handheld syringe. It draws tissue out of the uterus.
- Machine vacuum
aspiration uses a tube attached to an electric pump. It draws tissue from
within the uterus.
- Dilation and evacuation (D&E) uses a combination of
forceps, and dilation and curettage (D&C).
Can only be used during early pregnancy (up to about 9
Can be used from early to mid-pregnancy:
- Manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) can be used as early as 5
weeks, and as late as 12 weeks after the last menstrual period.
Machine vacuum aspiration can be used around 5 to 12 weeks after the last
- D&E is used between 13 and 24 weeks after the last
menstrual period. It uses a combination of vacuum aspiration,
forceps, and D&C.
Takes 2 or more medical visits over 3 weeks
Usually takes 1 visit
May take several days to complete (most of the abortion
process happens gradually, at home)
Is complete in the time it takes for the
Does not require anesthesia or sedative
Does not require
general anesthesia (though it can be used).
Local anesthesia, with or without a calming sedative,
Has a high success rate (about 95%)
Has a high success rate (about 99%)
Causes moderate to heavy bleeding for a short
Causes light bleeding in most cases
Needs medical follow-up to make sure pregnancy has ended
and to check the woman's health
Does not always need medical follow-up
Is a multi-step process
Is a single-step process
In extremely rare cases, leads to severe infection and
death (about 1 out of 100,000), slightly higher rate than after
In extremely rare cases, leads to death (less than 1 out of 100,000)
Pain associated with a medical or surgical abortion ranges
from mild to severe and depends on each woman's physical and emotional
Some fetal birth defects or medical problems are not
commonly diagnosed until the second trimester, when most routine screening
tests are done. There are fewer abortion options during the second