About 6.7 million pregnancies occur in the United States each year.1 Nearly two-thirds of all pregnancies result in live births and about one-fifth in abortion; the remainder end in miscarriage.2 According to these statistics, a significant amount of women have an abortion at some point in their lifetime, and yet this medical procedure is the cause of endless controversy in the United States. The amount of widespread public attention directed at abortions is incomparable to any other private medical procedure. There are many conflicting arguments about whether a woman should have the ability to get an abortion. The controversy stems from whether it is moral to terminate a pregnancy. Many groups—religious affiliated and not—have strongly protested against the practice, deeming it immoral and, have called for the procedure to be outlawed. These people are called “Pro-lifers.” The opposing view is the support of a woman’s right to an abortion. Those who believe that the practice should be kept legal are called “Pro-choicers.”
For many women, an unplanned pregnancy can be emotionally draining. Worries of being an unfit mother, financially or emotionally, or of having to leave work to take care of a new life are common concerns that many pregnant women face. Deciding how to proceed with the pregnancy is an important, and possibly emotionally exhausting, step for these women. Most often a woman will look to her family, religion, or partner for advice when considering her options. Although receiving input from friends and family can provide valuable support and reassurance, it is crucial that they understand that ultimately, it is the pregnant woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Different situations call for different courses of action, and thus what may have worked for one person may not be the best option for another.
There are many reasons that a woman may choose to abort her pregnancy, including, but not limited to, she feels she is not emotionally ready to care for a child, she believes she does not have the necessary resources to complete her pregnancy and raise a child, she faces a health problem, or she fear familial disappointment. Most abortions take place in the first trimester of a pregnancy when the procedure is faster, safer, and easier for a doctor to perform. However, a woman can decide to have an abortion up until late into the second trimester.
Below are some of the commonly cited reasons why a woman may voluntarily terminate her pregnancy.
- I am too young and cannot afford to have a baby.
- I am not ready to be a mother.
- My parents will kill me if they know I am pregnant.
- I cannot take maternity leave from my job.
- I do not want anyone to know I have had sex.
- My partner will leave me if I have the baby.
- My husband/boyfriend does not feel ready to be a father.
- I was raped.
- I do not want to be a single parent.
- Pregnancy and giving birth scares me.
- My current life path is not congruent with having a baby at this time. (attending college, pursuing careers, traveling, etc.)
There are many more unlisted reasons as to why women have abortions. A woman should not feel abnormal or strange if she has a different reason for choosing abortion. Choosing to have an abortion is a personal decision based on the unique circumstances in the woman’s life. Ideally, family and friends will support the decision the pregnant woman makes.
The most common form of abortion is a is a hormonal abortion. A hormonal abortion is a series of pills that induce an abortion, causing the woman to experience something similar to a miscarriage or a heavy period. This type of abortion is mainly used for early terminations. After a couple visits to the doctor the woman will have finished the abortion and may physically return to a normal routine.
Another form of abortion is a surgical abortion. A surgical abortion is the removal of a placenta and fetus from the womb via a suction-like device inserted through the vagina and cervix. These abortions are considered safe, but because it is a more invasive procedure, a surgical abortion could require a few hours or days of recovery. This type of abortion can be used later into the first and second trimesters.
Late term abortions- abortions performed during the third trimester of pregnancy- are generally rare in the United States. A 2012 report by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion found that late term abortions constitute only 1.3% of abortions.3 This rarity is because most often the fetus is labeled as “viable”, meaning that the fetus could survive on its own outside of the woman’s uterus. The legality of abortions that occur later in the pregnancy vary from country to country and from state to state. For example, in the United States, most states ban abortions after the age of viability unless the mother’s health or life is in danger. This time period differs between states: it most commonly ranges from 20 weeks to 24 weeks post fertilization.4 As of 2016, thirteen states including Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have laws banning abortion after 20 or 22 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger. The South Carolina bill cites that at 20 weeks into gestation the fetus is capable of feeling pain, although most scientific research suggests that a fetus becomes capable of feeling pain towards the beginning of the third trimester (which starts 28 weeks into gestation).5
More information regarding the decision to have an abortion can be found at the National Abortion Federation. The Sexperts also have a more in depth article on abortions titled “Arguments for and against Abortion.”
If a woman decides to have an abortion, she has the right to safe, high quality, caring, and complete medical information and assistance. Information regarding finding a reputable clinic can be found at this link and can be found by calling one of the toll free numbers recommended in the Important Phone Numbers/Resources (Abortion). For information on clinics in a specific geographic area, including the services they offer, refer to this nationwide database.
If a woman chooses to have an abortion, she may experience various emotional and physical feelings days, or even weeks, afterwards. The time following an abortion can be just as emotional and important as the time up until the abortion and during the abortion itself. The woman choosing to have an abortion should have a strong support network following the procedure in the case of emotional or medical issues.
1. Finer, Lawrence B., and Mia R. Zolna. “Unintended Pregnancy in the United States: Incidence and Disparities, 2006.” Contraception 84.5 (2011): 478–485. PMC. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.
2. Special tabulations of data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth and 2008 Guttmacher Abortion Provider Census.
3. Creanga, A. A., Jamieson, D. J., & Pazol, K. "Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2012." Center For Disease Control and Pervention. N.p., 27 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.
4. State Policies on Later Abortions." Guttmacher Institute. N.p., 03 Oct. 2016. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.
5. Grinberg, Emanuella. “S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley signs law banning abortion at 20 weeks” CNN Politics. 26 May, 2016 Web.
Last Updated: 7 February 2017.