Despite what critics may contend, abortion remains one of the safest and most common medical procedures in the United States.
As anti-abortion laws get passed across the country, many Americans are asking questions about the procedure’s frequency, safety, and reliability.
To answer some of these questions and clear up any misconceptions about the procedure, here’s a comprehensive snapshot of what abortion looks like in the United States today.
First and foremost, abortion is considered to be one of the most common and safest procedures in the United States.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of women receive safe, effective abortions in the country.
In 2015, the last year that was reported, the
About a quarter of women will have an abortion by the time they’re 45 years old, according to Planned Parenthood. Nineteen percent will have an abortion by 30, and 4.6 percent will have one by 20, according to a Guttmacher Institute study.
Even though abortions are very common in the United States, the total number of abortions has been declining year after year.
Between 2006 and 2015, the abortion rate in the United States dropped by about 26 percent. That was the lowest level recorded, the
Health experts suspect easier access to birth control along with increased awareness about unwanted pregnancies are behind the drop.
“The most likely contributing factor to the decline in abortions is the availability of better birth control and better access to birth control. When contraceptives are more available, then rates of abortion decrease,” Dr. Tristan Emily Bickman, a board-certified OB-GYN with UCLA Medical Center, told Healthline.
Serious problems or complications after an abortion are quite rare.
“The safest time to get an abortion is in the first trimester. The likelihood of complications — whether it’s infection, perforation of the uterus, heavy bleeding — is much lower,” said Dr. Mitchell Kramer, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York.
Mishaps are so rare, in fact, that a
It’s actually riskier to give birth than to get an abortion.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the risk of death from childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than death associated with abortions.
Approximately 60 percent of people who receive abortions are in their 20s, 25 percent are in their 30s, and 12 percent are teens, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
More than half of the women who get abortions already have children. There’s also a higher rate of abortion in women who have two children (33 percent) compared to just one (26 percent), according to Bickman.
“The most commonly noted reason for the induced abortion is the woman’s concern about being able to provide for the children they have already,” Bickman said.
In poorer areas, access to birth control is extremely limited. Consequently, there’s a higher rate of unwanted pregnancies, and abortion is much more common among poorer women.
In 2014, for example, women below the federal poverty level accounted for nearly half of all abortions that year.
There are different types of abortion, and which one you should get typically comes down to how far along in pregnancy you are.
Before any procedure, your doctor will first need to make sure the pregnancy is, in fact, in the uterus, according to Kramer.
Typically, you can’t make that diagnosis until about 6 weeks in, says Kramer. Once a doctor diagnoses that the pregnancy is in the uterus, then they can move forward with an abortion.
There’s medication abortion — aka “the abortion pill” — where you take pills that end the pregnancy by forcing the uterus to expel the pregnancy tissue.
A medication abortion can be done at home within the first 9 weeks of gestation, says Kramer.
It’s extremely effective. If done within the first 8 weeks, it’s up to 98 percent effective. At 9 weeks it’s close to 96 percent effective, and by 10 weeks it’s about 93 percent effective.
There are also surgical — or in-clinic — abortions, where a healthcare professional uses medical instruments to surgically remove the pregnancy from the uterus. Surgical abortions have been shown to work 99 percent of the time.
In the first trimester, a vacuum aspiration, or suction curettage, is likely used. This procedure uses a suction to empty the uterus, Kramer explains. Beyond that, a dilation and evacuation (D&E) would be used. That procedure uses a suction in addition to medical tools to remove the pregnancy tissue from the uterus.
These procedures only take about 10 minutes, though the later the pregnancy, the longer it may take.
The vast majority of abortions — about 89 percent — take place within the first trimester, which encompasses the first 12 weeks.
A mere 1.4 percent of abortions occur after 21 weeks, Planned Parenthood states.
There are a handful of reasons why women choose to end their pregnancies.
“The three most common reasons are: having a baby would interfere with the woman’s work, education, or ability to care for their existing children; they couldn’t afford a baby at the time; or concern for another individual,” Bickman explained.
Prohibiting abortion will actually just put more financial, emotional, and physical stress on women and push more people into poverty, says Bickman.
In addition, research has shown that restricting women’s access to abortion won’t actually stop them from occurring.
Abortion rates are pretty much the same in countries where abortion’s prohibited and where it’s legal.
The abortion rate is 37 per 1,000 women in countries that ban abortions and 34 per 1,000 in countries that allow abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Regardless of whether it’s legal or not, women will still get abortions — even if that means resorting to unsafe abortions that are far more likely to result in complications or even death.
As state laws curtailing abortion aim to limit women’s reproductive rights, it’s important to have a clear and accurate snapshot of what abortion looks like in America today.
Abortions are considered to be one of the most common, safest procedures in the United States. Complications are so rare, it’s actually risker to give birth than to have an abortion.