An induced abortion is when a pregnancy is intentionally ended through a medical procedure.
When people talk about abortion, they’re usually referring to induced abortion.
An induced abortion is where a pregnancy is ended intentionally. A spontaneous abortion is where a pregnancy ends on its own — that is, without medical intervention — before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Induced abortion is often simply called “abortion.” Spontaneous abortion is another term for miscarriage.
The term “induced abortion” also refers to abortions that were ended for medical reasons — for example, if there was a high risk of stillbirth or if the pregnant person’s life was at risk.
The medical treatment for a miscarriage can be similar to an induced abortion procedure. If you have a complete miscarriage, where your body expels all pregnancy tissue, it may not require treatment.
However, if there’s still some tissue in your body, you may need medical treatment. This could involve:
- Medication: A medical professional may prescribe medications to help you pass the rest of the tissue. The medications are mifepristone and misoprostol, which are also used for induced abortion.
- Vacuum aspiration: This is an in-clinic procedure where a medical professional removes the remaining tissues through the cervix using gentle suction. Vacuum aspiration is also used for induced abortion.
- Dilation and curettage (D&C): This is another in-clinic procedure. It is also called a dilation and evacuation (D&E) or dilation and extraction (D&E). Your cervix will be dilated (widened), and a medical professional will manually remove the pregnancy tissue. D&C procedures can also be used for induced abortion.
In the context of induced abortion, vacuum aspiration and D&C procedures are also known as surgical abortion. However, it’s worth noting that these procedures are minimally invasive and don’t require general anesthesia.
Yes. “Induced” means that the pregnancy was intentionally ended through medical intervention.
Whether the abortion was done out of medical necessity or someone’s own choice, it is considered “induced.” The term is not used to distinguish between people’s reasons for termination but whether the pregnancy is ended through medical intervention or not.
An elective abortion is an induced abortion that someone chooses to have, while a therapeutic abortion is an abortion done out of medical necessity. These terms are used in laws and policies, but they’re not medical terms.
In fact, the terms are
For example, if someone chooses an abortion because they don’t want to be a parent, one could argue that the abortion is medically necessary as continuing the pregnancy may place significant strain on their mental health.
No matter whether the abortion is considered elective or therapeutic, the procedures are the same.
Induced abortions may be done via:
- medication (mifepristone and/or misoprostol)
- vacuum aspiration
These procedures may also be used to treat a miscarriage.
The terminology surrounding abortion, miscarriage, and pregnancy can be controversial and, in some cases, confusing.
Here are some useful terms to understand:
- Early pregnancy loss: A miscarriage that occurs in the first trimester (before 13 weeks gestational age).
- Early second trimester pregnancy loss: A miscarriage that occurs in the second trimester (between 13 and 20 weeks gestational age).
- Ectopic pregnancy: A fertilized egg that implants outside of the uterus and, as a result, is unable to develop into an embryo. An ectopic pregnancy can be life threatening.
- Missed abortion/missed miscarriage: A spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) where you don’t have any noticeable miscarriage symptoms, such as bleeding or cramps. Usually, the pregnancy has stopped developing, but the tissues are still in your uterus. You may not realize you’re miscarrying.
- Stillbirth: A spontaneous pregnancy loss that occurs between 20 weeks of gestational age and birth. A stillbirth can also be when, upon delivery, the fetus isn’t showing any signs of life.
- Threatened abortion: Where someone experiences vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy, but the cervix is closed. This may result in a miscarriage, or the symptoms might go away, and the pregnancy will continue.
If you don’t want to be pregnant, induced abortion can be a safe, effective way to end a pregnancy.
You can learn more about induced abortion at the following links:
- The Center for Reproductive Rights’ state-by-state abortion laws map contains information about abortion rights and access in each US state.
- Abortion Finder, National Abortion Federation, and Planned Parenthood can help you find a nearby abortion care facility.
- Aid Access and carafem can provide telehealth abortion services if you’d like to manage a medication abortion at home.
- The National Network of Abortion Funds has a guide to finding funding for an abortion.
- All-Options and Exhale provide compassionate, unbiased, nonjudgmental post-abortion counseling.
Healthline also has a range of fact-based articles on abortion, such as:
- Understanding Abortion Restrictions in Your State
- How to Safely Self-Manage a Medication Abortion at Home
- After Abortion Care: What To Expect After Your Abortion
- Do Abortions Hurt? What to Expect When Taking the Pill or Undergoing In-Office Surgery
- 7 Things You Can Do to Protect Yourself or Support Others In the Wake of Roe v. Wade Decision
Try to avoid crisis pregnancy centers. While crisis pregnancy centers may look like legitimate health clinics, they’re unregulated, unlicensed, and backed by anti-abortion groups.
These clinics often share false information with the intention of preventing people from aborting. One study found that 80% of crisis pregnancy center websites shared misleading information.
An induced abortion ends a pregnancy through a medical procedure. It’s distinct from a spontaneous abortion, which is another term for miscarriage.
Induced abortion procedures involve using medication or physically removing pregnancy tissues from the uterus. The same procedures may be used to treat miscarriages when tissue remains in the uterus.
For people who don’t want to be pregnant, an induced abortion is a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.