Abortion: An Overview
An abortion is the termination of a fetus in the uterus through either elective methods or due to a miscarriage (Yilmaz, 2010). There are two types of an elective abortion: surgical and medical abortion.
A surgical abortion is an in-clinic procedure that uses a small vacuum to expel the fetus and other birth tissue from the uterus (Vorvick, 2011). The second type of induced abortion is through the intake of medication that discontinues the development of the fetus and expels the fetus from the uterus (Trupin, 2010). Abortions can be elective, as the types mentioned above, or considered therapeutic if reaching a full-term pregnancy would jeopardize the mother’s life or health.

Surgical Abortion
Diagram of Surgical Abortion

A surgical abortion is an outpatient procedure that involves a speculum insertion, a pelvic examination, taking cervical cultures to test for sexually transmitted diseases, the injection of local anesthesia, a dilating process during which the cervix is opened, and finally a suction process using a small hand held suction device (Trupin, 2010). The process lasts anywhere between 2-6 hours, and is accompanied by a follow-up appointment two weeks after the procedure. A procedure such as this can be done
up until 14 weeks into the pregnancy, otherwise a more complicated procedure must be used (Trupin, 2010).

Medical Abortion
A medical abortion is also an outpatient procedure that involves the intake of two prescribed medications, also known at the “abortion pill,” that discontinue the development of the fetus and contract the uterine muscles to expel the fetus from the body, respectively (Trupin, 2010). Part of the procedure is done at the clinic, involving an ultrasound, pelvic examination, and intake of the methotrexate or similar drug; the second part of the procedure, the intake of the mifepristone or similar drug, is done on the patient’s own (Trupin, 2010). Women have reported that the medical abortion “feels more natural” than a surgical abortion and is done in the sanctity of their own home (Yilmaz, 2010). Contrary to the surgical abortion, a medical abortion can only be done up until about six weeks into the pregnancy.

An abortion is one of the safest and most common healthcare procedures for women in their reproductive years, though there are some risks associated with both the surgical and medical procedures. Some risks of abortion include: damage to the womb or cervix, emotional or psychological distress, excessive bleeding, and infection of the uterus or fallopian tubes (Vorvick, 2011). More often than not, however, the prognoses for women who have abortions recover without any physical complications. These risks are greater if the procedure is not done at an appropriate medical center (Vorvick, 2011).

Much debate is centered on the incidence of psychological distress after having an elective abortion. A study conducted by Yilmaz (2010) observed the incidence of psychological depression of patients who had a medical or surgical abortion in their first two trimesters. Clinical psychologists assessed 367 women who underwent a surgical abortion and 458 women who underwent a medical abortion one week after the procedure. Of the study population, 27.1% of the patients were diagnosed with post-abortion depression. The researchers found that the frequency of post-abortion depression was greater for those who elected to have the surgical procedure. These women were significantly younger and had a more frequent history of psychiatric and depressive disorders (Yilmaz, 2010). The findings conclude that women who are known to have had past psychiatric and anxiety disorders should be closely monitored after having an abortion procedure.

The abortion procedure is one of the most common procedures for women in their reproductive years and by the age of 45, approximately 1 in 3 women in the United States will elect to have an abortion (Weitz, 2010). Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended and 40 percent end in abortion, resulting in approximately 1.2 million abortions annually (Weitz, 2010). The number of annual abortions that take place worldwide is around 40 million.

Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Debate
Much political and religious debate is centered on the legalization of abortion in this country and others. The popular debate rhetoric and propaganda surrounding the issue is, “Are you ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’?” The pro-life
Debate Cartoon

side supports the idea that even the smallest forms of life, e.g., egg, sperm, and embryo, should be protected and selflessly valued. This side centers their debate on religion Biblical text, claiming that God is on their side (Crawley, 2009). The pro-choice activists center their arguments in terms of legality, rights, and freedom. This side of the argument values the personal decisions of the woman who opted to terminate their pregnancy in response to social conditions, though the word “choice” derives a sense of choosing to have an abortion just because you want to (Crawley, 2009). Such is not the case. Most people claim to pledge allegiance to one “side” or the other, though many personally decide to fall somewhere between the two. Many argue that this debate was easily made into a binary (always right or always wrong) issue (Crawley, 2009). Such does not have to be the case.

Abortion and You
Many women in the United States elect to have the abortion procedure at sometime in their life. Ultimately – “pro-life”/”pro-choice” debate aside – the choice is up to you. It is important to note that there are many options out there and it helps to weigh all the possible options before making your decision. Many resources are out there and are available through your local Planned Parenthood agency. See their website at www.plannedparenthood.org.

Crawley, S.L. (2009). Making women the subjects of the abortion debate: A class exercise that moves beyond "pro-choice" and "pro-life". Feminist Teacher 19(3), 227-240. Retrieved January 22, 2011, from Project MUSE database.
Trupin, S. (2010). Women’s Health Practice. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealthpractice.com/abortion.htm
Vorvick, L. (2011, April 11). Abortion. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/surgery/abortion/overview.html#
Weitz, T., & Cockrill, K. (2010). Abortion clinic patients’ opinions about obtaining abortions from general women's health care providers. Patient Education & Counseling, 81(3), 409-414. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2010.09.003
Yilmaz, N., Kanat-Pektas, M., Kilic, S., & Gulerman, C. (2010). Medical or surgical abortion and psychiatric outcomes. Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 23(6), 541-544. doi:10.3109/14767050903191301
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