abortion essay introduction brainly

Abortion: What it is and why people disagree whether it should be legal

And why you’re hearing so much about it right now.


  • A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has determined that states will get to decide how abortions are regulated.
  • An abortion is a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy.
  • This means in some American states, abortions will become illegal.
  • Abortion is legal in Canada and not affected by the U.S. decision.
  • Some people agree with this decision, but others say abortion should be a universal right for all who want it.
  • Keep reading to understand the anti-abortion/pro-choice debate. ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a historic decision called Roe v. Wade.

The court’s new ruling limits a person’s right to have an abortion in the United States.

It’s expected to lead to abortion restrictions or outright bans in at least 13 U.S. states.

If you want to know more about the decision, read this article:

  • Roe v. Wade was overturned. What does that mean?

If you want to know what an abortion is and why people disagree whether or not it should be allowed, keep reading.

Words we use in this article:  Abortion: An abortion is a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy. Depending on the situation, it can either be done by prescribed medication or as a surgical procedure in a clinic or hospital by a doctor.  Conception: Conception is when a male sperm cell fertilizes a female egg, or ovum, and a person becomes pregnant.  Fetus: A fertilized egg is called a zygote, which eventually becomes a fetus at approximately nine weeks and continues to develop until birth.

Why are there different views on abortion?

Abortion can be controversial because not everyone agrees who should decide whether or not to end a pregnancy: the individual who is pregnant or the government.

Bernard Dickens, professor emeritus of health law and policy at the University of Toronto, has been studying the history of abortion and the laws relating to it for 50 years.

He says for some people who are pro-choice and support the right to abortion, the fact that the fetus is inside the individual's body means that they get to decide what happens to it.

abortion essay introduction brainly

Those who are anti-abortion oppose the decision to end a pregnancy with abortion and believe that the fetus is considered a person long before birth.

“From a religious or moral perspective, some people say that life begins earlier than birth, life begins at conception, when a woman becomes pregnant,” Dickens said.

Because those who are anti-abortion see the fetus as a living being, they believe that abortion is ending a life, and that the government should intervene to protect that life.

abortion essay introduction brainly

When do abortions happen?

In the U.S., federal statistics suggest that 94 per cent of abortions are performed at or before 13 weeks of pregnancy, which lasts about 40 weeks, or nine months.

Roughly 99 per cent of abortions are performed before 21 weeks of pregnancy (about four and a half months).

In Canada, the statistics are very similar.

Few health care providers in Canada or the U.S. perform abortions after 24 weeks (about five and a half months), unless the life of the person who is pregnant is at risk, if the fetus has serious complications, or in cases where a person has become pregnant as a result of a sexual assault.

pregnancy month by month, images of developing fetus in womb, week 1 microscopic cell, week 8 roughly the size of a quarter, week 12 rougly the size of a tennis ball, week 13 in the US 94% or abortions are performed at or before this point

Why do people have abortions?

According to Dickens, numerous factors can influence a person’s decision to have an abortion in the United States, including financial, medical and personal.

One of the common reasons is socioeconomic. In other words, some of the people who have had abortions said they couldn't afford to raise a child or add another child to their family.

According to a study done in 2014 by the Guttmacher Institute, a not-for-profit research organization that studies reproductive health:

  • 59 per cent of people in the U.S. who chose abortions already have kids.
  • 75 per cent of people who had had abortions lived below the poverty line of $15,730 US for a family of two. 

OK, now that you understand the background and you want to learn more about what led to the decision in the United States, read this article .

Have more questions? Want to tell us how we’re doing? Use the “send us feedback” link below. ⬇️⬇️⬇️

With files from The Associated Press

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Abortion Argumentative Essay: Definitive Guide

Academic writing

abortion essay introduction brainly

Abortion remains a debatable issue even today, especially in countries like the USA, where a controversial ban was upheld in 13 states at the point this article was written. That’s why an essay on abortion has become one of the most popular tasks in schools, colleges, and universities. When writing this kind of essay, students learn to express their opinion, find and draw arguments and examples, and conduct research.

It’s very easy to speculate on topics like this. However, this makes it harder to find credible and peer-reviewed information on the topic that isn’t merely someone’s opinion. If you were assigned this kind of academic task, do not lose heart. In this article, we will provide you with all the tips and tricks for writing about abortion.

Where to begin?

Conversations about abortion are always emotional. Complex stories, difficult decisions, bitter moments, and terrible diagnoses make this topic hard to cover. Some young people may be shocked by this assignment, while others would be happy to express their opinion on the matter.

One way or another, this topic doesn't leave anyone indifferent. However, it shouldn’t have an effect on the way you approach the research and writing process. What should you remember when working on an argumentative essay about abortion?

  • Don’t let your emotions take over. As this is an academic paper, you have to stay impartial and operate with facts. The topic is indeed sore and burning, causing thousands of scandals on the Internet, but you are writing it for school, not a Quora thread.
  • Try to balance your opinions. There are always two sides to one story, even if the story is so fragile. You need to present an issue from different angles. This is what your tutors seek to teach you.
  • Be tolerant and mind your language. It is very important not to hurt anybody with the choice of words in your essay. So make sure you avoid any possible rough words. It is important to respect people with polar opinions, especially when it comes to academic writing. 
  • Use facts, not claims. Your essay cannot be based solely on your personal ideas – your conclusions should be derived from facts. Roe v. Wade case, WHO or Mayo Clinic information, and CDC are some of the sources you can rely on.

Arguments for and against abortion

Speaking of Outline

An argumentative essay on abortion outline is a must-have even for experienced writers. In general, each essay, irrespective of its kind or topic, has a strict outline. It may be brief or extended, but the major parts are always the same:

  • Introduction. This is a relatively short paragraph that starts with a hook and presents the background information on the topic. It should end with a thesis statement telling your reader what your main goal or idea is.
  • Body. This section usually consists of 2-4 paragraphs. Each one has its own structure: main argument + facts to support it + small conclusion and transition into the next paragraph.
  • Conclusion. In this part, your task is to summarize all your thoughts and come to a general conclusive idea. You may have to restate some info from the body and your thesis statement and add a couple of conclusive statements without introducing new facts.

Why is it important to create an outline?

  • You will structure your ideas. We bet you’ve got lots on your mind. Writing them down and seeing how one can flow logically into the other will help you create a consistent paper. Naturally, you will have to abandon some of the ideas if they don’t fit the overall narrative you’re building.
  • You can get some inspiration. While creating your outline, which usually consists of some brief ideas, you can come up with many more to research. Some will add to your current ones or replace them with better options.
  • You will find the most suitable sources. Argumentative essay writing requires you to use solid facts and trustworthy arguments built on them. When the topic is as controversial as abortion, these arguments should be taken from up-to-date, reliable sources. With an outline, you will see if you have enough to back up your ideas.
  • You will write your text as professionals do. Most expert writers start with outlines to write the text faster and make it generally better. As you will have your ideas structured, the general flow of thoughts will be clear. And, of course, it will influence your overall grade positively.


Abortion Essay Introduction

The introduction is perhaps the most important part of the whole essay. In this relatively small part, you will have to present the issue under consideration and state your opinion on it. Here is a typical introduction outline:

  • The first sentence is a hook grabbing readers' attention.
  • A few sentences that go after elaborate on the hook. They give your readers some background and explain your research.
  • The last sentence is a thesis statement showing the key idea you are building your text around.

Before writing an abortion essay intro, first thing first, you will need to define your position. If you are in favor of this procedure, what exactly made you think so? If you are an opponent of abortion, determine how to argue your position. In both cases, you may research the point of view in medicine, history, ethics, and other fields.

When writing an introduction, remember:

  • Never repeat your title. First of all, it looks too obvious; secondly, it may be boring for your reader right from the start. Your first sentence should be a well-crafted hook. The topic of abortion worries many people, so it’s your chance to catch your audience’s attention with some facts or shocking figures.
  • Do not make it too long. Your task here is to engage your audience and let them know what they are about to learn. The rest of the information will be disclosed in the main part. Nobody likes long introductions, so keep it short but informative.
  • Pay due attention to the thesis statement. This is the central sentence of your introduction. A thesis statement in your abortion intro paragraph should show that you have a well-supported position and are ready to argue it. Therefore, it has to be strong and convey your idea as clearly as possible. We advise you to make several options for the thesis statement and choose the strongest one.

Hooks for an Abortion Essay

Writing a hook is a good way to catch the attention of your audience, as this is usually the first sentence in an essay. How to start an essay about abortion? You can begin with some shocking fact, question, statistics, or even a quote. However, always make sure that this piece is taken from a trusted resource.

Here are some examples of hooks you can use in your paper:

  • As of July 1, 2022, 13 states banned abortion, depriving millions of women of control of their bodies.
  • According to WHO, 125,000 abortions take place every day worldwide.
  • Is abortion a woman’s right or a crime?
  • Since 1994, more than 40 countries have liberalized their abortion laws.
  • Around 48% of all abortions are unsafe, and 8% of them lead to women’s death.
  • The right to an abortion is one of the reproductive and basic rights of a woman.
  • Abortion is as old as the world itself – women have resorted to this method since ancient times.
  • Only 60% of women in the world live in countries where pregnancy termination is allowed.

Body Paragraphs: Pros and Cons of Abortion

The body is the biggest part of your paper. Here, you have a chance to make your voice concerning the abortion issue heard. Not sure where to start? Facts about abortion pros and cons should give you a basic understanding of which direction to move in.

First things first, let’s review some brief tips for you on how to write the best essay body if you have already made up your mind.

Make a draft

It’s always a good idea to have a rough draft of your writing. Follow the outline and don’t bother with the word choice, grammar, or sentence structure much at first. You can polish it all later, as the initial draft will not likely be your final. You may see some omissions in your arguments, lack of factual basis, or repetitiveness that can be eliminated in the next versions.

Trust only reliable sources

This part of an essay includes loads of factual information, and you should be very careful with it. Otherwise, your paper may look unprofessional and cost you precious points. Never rely on sources like Wikipedia or tabloids – they lack veracity and preciseness.

Edit rigorously

It’s best to do it the next day after you finish writing so that you can spot even the smallest mistakes. Remember, this is the most important part of your paper, so it has to be flawless. You can also use editing tools like Grammarly.

Determine your weak points

Since you are writing an argumentative essay, your ideas should be backed up by strong facts so that you sound convincing. Sometimes it happens that one argument looks weaker than the other. Your task is to find it and strengthen it with more or better facts.

Add an opposing view

Sometimes, it’s not enough to present only one side of the discussion. Showing one of the common views from the opposing side might actually help you strengthen your main idea. Besides, making an attempt at refuting it with alternative facts can show your teacher or professor that you’ve researched and analyzed all viewpoints, not just the one you stand by.

If you have chosen a side but are struggling to find the arguments for or against it, we have complied abortion pro and cons list for you. You can use both sets if you are writing an abortion summary essay covering all the stances.

Why Should Abortion Be Legal

If you stick to the opinion that abortion is just a medical procedure, which should be a basic health care need for each woman, you will definitely want to write the pros of abortion essay. Here is some important information and a list of pros about abortion for you to use:

  • Since the fetus is a set of cells – not an individual, it’s up to a pregnant woman to make a decision concerning her body. Only she can decide whether she wants to keep the pregnancy or have an abortion. The abortion ban is a violation of a woman’s right to have control over her own body.
  • The fact that women and girls do not have access to effective contraception and safe abortion services has serious consequences for their own health and the health of their families.
  • The criminalization of abortion usually leads to an increase in the number of clandestine abortions. Many years ago, fetuses were disposed of with improvised means, which included knitting needles and half-straightened metal hangers. 13% of women’s deaths are the result of unsafe abortions.
  • Many women live in a difficult financial situation and cannot support their children financially. Having access to safe abortion takes this burden off their shoulders. This will also not decrease their quality of life as the birth and childcare would.
  • In countries where abortion is prohibited, there is a phenomenon of abortion tourism to other countries where it can be done without obstacles. Giving access to this procedure can make the lives of women much easier.
  • Women should not put their lives or health in danger because of the laws that were adopted by other people.
  • Girls and women who do not have proper sex education may not understand pregnancy as a concept or determine that they are pregnant early on. Instead of educating them and giving them a choice, an abortion ban forces them to become mothers and expects them to be fit parents despite not knowing much about reproduction.
  • There are women who have genetic disorders or severe mental health issues that will affect their children if they're born. Giving them an option to terminate ensures that there won't be a child with a low quality of life and that the woman will not have to suffer through pregnancy, birth, and raising a child with her condition.
  • Being pro-choice is about the freedom to make decisions about your body so that women who are for termination can do it safely, and those who are against it can choose not to do it. It is an inclusive option that caters to everyone.
  • Women and girls who were raped or abused by their partner, caregiver, or stranger and chose to terminate the pregnancy can now be imprisoned for longer than their abusers. This implies that the system values the life of a fetus with no or primitive brain function over the life of a living woman.
  • People who lived in times when artificial termination of pregnancy was scarcely available remember clandestine abortions and how traumatic they were, not only for the physical but also for the mental health of women. Indeed, traditionally, in many countries, large families were a norm. However, the times have changed, and supervised abortion is a safe and accessible procedure these days. A ban on abortion will simply push humanity away from the achievements of the civilized world.


Types of abortion

There are 2 main types of abortions that can be performed at different pregnancy stages and for different reasons:

  • Medical abortion. It is performed by taking a specially prescribed pill. It does not require any special manipulations and can even be done at home (however, after a doctor’s visit and under supervision). It is considered very safe and is usually done during the very first weeks of pregnancy.
  • Surgical abortion. This is a medical operation that is done with the help of a suction tube. It then removes the fetus and any related material. Anesthesia is used for this procedure, and therefore, it can only be done in a hospital. The maximum time allowed for surgical abortion is determined in each country specifically.

Cases when abortion is needed

Center for Reproductive Rights singles out the following situations when abortion is required:

  • When there is a risk to the life or physical/mental health of a pregnant woman.
  • When a pregnant woman has social or economic reasons for it.
  • Upon the woman's request.
  • If a pregnant woman is mentally or cognitively disabled.
  • In case of rape and/or incest.
  • If there were congenital anomalies detected in the fetus.

Countries and their abortion laws

  • Countries where abortion is legalized in any case: Australia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, etc.
  • Countries where abortion is completely prohibited: Angola, Venezuela, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Oman, Paraguay, Palau, Jamaica, Laos, Haiti, Honduras, Andorra, Aruba, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Sierra Leone, Senegal, etc.
  • Countries where abortion is allowed for medical reasons: Afghanistan, Israel, Argentina, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ghana, Israel, Morocco, Mexico, Bahamas, Central African Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Algeria, Monaco, Pakistan, Poland, etc. 
  • Countries where abortion is allowed for both medical and socioeconomic reasons: England, India, Spain, Luxembourg, Japan, Finland, Taiwan, Zambia, Iceland, Fiji, Cyprus, Barbados, Belize, etc.

Why Abortion Should Be Banned

Essays against abortions are popular in educational institutions since we all know that many people – many minds. So if you don’t want to support this procedure in your essay, here are some facts that may help you to argument why abortion is wrong:

  • Abortion at an early age is especially dangerous because a young woman with an unstable hormonal system may no longer be able to have children throughout her life. Termination of pregnancy disrupts the hormonal development of the body.
  • Health complications caused by abortion can occur many years after the procedure. Even if a woman feels fine in the short run, the situation may change in the future.
  • Abortion clearly has a negative effect on reproductive function. Artificial dilation of the cervix during an abortion leads to weak uterus tonus, which can cause a miscarriage during the next pregnancy.
  • Evidence shows that surgical termination of pregnancy significantly increases the risk of breast cancer.
  • In December 1996, the session of the Council of Europe on bioethics concluded that a fetus is considered a human being on the 14th day after conception.

You are free to use each of these arguments for essays against abortions. Remember that each claim should not be supported by emotions but by facts, figures, and so on.

Health complications after abortion

One way or another, abortion is extremely stressful for a woman’s body. Apart from that, it can even lead to various health problems in the future. You can also cover them in your cons of an abortion essay:

  • Continuation of pregnancy. If the dose of the drug is calculated by the doctor in the wrong way, the pregnancy will progress.
  • Uterine bleeding, which requires immediate surgical intervention.
  • Severe nausea or even vomiting occurs as a result of a sharp change in the hormonal background.
  • Severe stomach pain. Medical abortion causes miscarriage and, as a result, strong contractions of the uterus.
  • High blood pressure and allergic reactions to medicines.
  • Depression or other mental problems after a difficult procedure.

Abortion Essay Conclusion

After you have finished working on the previous sections of your paper, you will have to end it with a strong conclusion. The last impression is no less important than the first one. Here is how you can make it perfect in your conclusion paragraph on abortion:

  • It should be concise. The conclusion cannot be as long as your essay body and should not add anything that cannot be derived from the main section. Reiterate the key ideas, combine some of them, and end the paragraph with something for the readers to think about.
  • It cannot repeat already stated information. Restate your thesis statement in completely other words and summarize your main points. Do not repeat anything word for word – rephrase and shorten the information instead.
  • It should include a call to action or a cliffhanger. Writing experts believe that a rhetorical question works really great for an argumentative essay. Another good strategy is to leave your readers with some curious ideas to ponder upon.

Abortion Facts for Essay

Abortion is a topic that concerns most modern women. Thousands of books, research papers, and articles on abortion are written across the world. Even though pregnancy termination has become much safer and less stigmatized with time, it still worries millions. What can you cover in your paper so that it can really stand out among others? You may want to add some shocking abortion statistics and facts:

  • 40-50 million abortions are done in the world every year (approximately 125,000 per day).
  • According to UN statistics, women have 25 million unsafe abortions each year. Most of them (97%) are performed in the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. 14% of them are especially unsafe because they are done by people without any medical knowledge.
  • Since 2017, the United States has shown the highest abortion rate in the last 30 years.
  • The biggest number of abortion procedures happen in the countries where they are officially banned. The lowest rate is demonstrated in the countries with high income and free access to contraception.
  • Women in low-income regions are three times more susceptible to unplanned pregnancies than those in developed countries.
  • In Argentina, more than 38,000 women face dreadful health consequences after unsafe abortions.
  • The highest teen abortion rates in the world are seen in 3 countries: England, Wales, and Sweden.
  • Only 31% of teenagers decide to terminate their pregnancy. However, the rate of early pregnancies is getting lower each year.
  • Approximately 13 million children are born to mothers under the age of 20 each year.
  • 5% of women of reproductive age live in countries where abortions are prohibited.

We hope that this abortion information was useful for you, and you can use some of these facts for your own argumentative essay. If you find some additional facts, make sure that they are not manipulative and are taken from official medical resources.


Abortion Essay Topics

Do you feel like you are lost in the abundance of information? Don’t know what topic to choose among the thousands available online? Check our short list of the best abortion argumentative essay topics:

  • Why should abortion be legalized essay
  • Abortion: a murder or a basic human right?
  • Why we should all support abortion rights
  • Is the abortion ban in the US a good initiative?
  • The moral aspect of teen abortions
  • Can the abortion ban solve birth control problems?
  • Should all countries allow abortion?
  • What consequences can abortion have in the long run?
  • Is denying abortion sexist?
  • Why is abortion a human right?
  • Are there any ethical implications of abortion?
  • Do you consider abortion a crime?
  • Should women face charges for terminating a pregnancy?

Want to come up with your own? Here is how to create good titles for abortion essays:

  • Write down the first associations. It can be something that swirls around in your head and comes to the surface when you think about the topic. These won’t necessarily be well-written headlines, but each word or phrase can be the first link in the chain of ideas that leads you to the best option.
  • Irony and puns are not always a good idea. Especially when it comes to such difficult topics as abortion. Therefore, in your efforts to be original, remain sensitive to the issue you want to discuss.
  • Never make a quote as your headline. First, a wordy quote makes the headline long. Secondly, readers do not understand whose words are given in the headline. Therefore, it may confuse them right from the start. If you have found a great quote, you can use it as your hook, but don’t forget to mention its author.
  • Try to briefly summarize what is said in the essay. What is the focus of your paper? If the essence of your argumentative essay can be reduced to one sentence, it can be used as a title, paraphrased, or shortened.
  • Write your title after you have finished your text. Before you just start writing, you might not yet have a catchy phrase in mind to use as a title. Don’t let it keep you from working on your essay – it might come along as you write.

Abortion Essay Example

We know that it is always easier to learn from a good example. For this reason, our writing experts have complied a detailed abortion essay outline for you. For your convenience, we have created two options with different opinions.

Topic: Why should abortion be legal?

Introduction – hook + thesis statement + short background information

Essay hook: More than 59% of women in the world do not have access to safe abortions, which leads to dreading health consequences or even death.

Thesis statement: Since banning abortions does not decrease their rates but only makes them unsafe, it is not logical to ban abortions.

Body – each paragraph should be devoted to one argument

Argument 1: Woman’s body – women’s rules. + example: basic human rights.

Argument 2: Banning abortion will only lead to more women’s death. + example: cases of Polish women.

Argument 3: Only women should decide on abortion. + example: many abortion laws are made by male politicians who lack knowledge and first-hand experience in pregnancies.

Conclusion – restated thesis statement + generalized conclusive statements + cliffhanger

Restated thesis: The abortion ban makes pregnancy terminations unsafe without decreasing the number of abortions, making it dangerous for women.

Cliffhanger: After all, who are we to decide a woman’s fate?

Topic: Why should abortion be banned?

Essay hook: Each year, over 40 million new babies are never born because their mothers decide to have an abortion.

Thesis statement: Abortions on request should be banned because we cannot decide for the baby whether it should live or die.

Argument 1: A fetus is considered a person almost as soon as it is conceived. Killing it should be regarded as murder. + example: Abortion bans in countries such as Poland, Egypt, etc.

Argument 2: Interrupting a baby’s life is morally wrong. + example: The Bible, the session of the Council of Europe on bioethics decision in 1996, etc.

Argument 3: Abortion may put the reproductive health of a woman at risk. + example: negative consequences of abortion.

Restated thesis: Women should not be allowed to have abortions without serious reason because a baby’s life is as priceless as their own.

Cliffhanger: Why is killing an adult considered a crime while killing an unborn baby is not?

Argumentative essay on pros and cons of abortion

Examples of Essays on Abortion

There are many great abortion essays examples on the Web. You can easily find an argumentative essay on abortion in pdf and save it as an example. Many students and scholars upload their pieces to specialized websites so that others can read them and continue the discussion in their own texts.

In a free argumentative essay on abortion, you can look at the structure of the paper, choice of the arguments, depth of research, and so on. Reading scientific papers on abortion or essays of famous activists is also a good idea. Here are the works of famous authors discussing abortion.

A Defense of Abortion by Judith Jarvis Thomson

Published in 1971, this essay by an American philosopher considers the moral permissibility of abortion. It is considered the most debated and famous essay on this topic, and it’s definitely worth reading no matter what your stance is.

Abortion and Infanticide by Michael Tooley

It was written in 1972 by an American philosopher known for his work in the field of metaphysics. In this essay, the author considers whether fetuses and infants have the same rights. Even though this work is quite complex, it presents some really interesting ideas on the matter.

Some Biological Insights into Abortion by Garret Hardin

This article by American ecologist Garret Hardin, who had focused on the issue of overpopulation during his scholarly activities, presents some insights into abortion from a scientific point of view. He also touches on non-biological issues, such as moral and economic. This essay will be of great interest to those who support the pro-choice stance.

H4 Hidden in Plain View: An Overview of Abortion in Rural Illinois and Around the Globe by Heather McIlvaine-Newsad 

In this study, McIlvaine-Newsad has researched the phenomenon of abortion since prehistoric times. She also finds an obvious link between the rate of abortions and the specifics of each individual country. Overall, this scientific work published in 2014 is extremely interesting and useful for those who want to base their essay on factual information.

H4 Reproduction, Politics, and John Irving’s The Cider House Rules: Women’s Rights or “Fetal Rights”? by Helena Wahlström

In her article of 2013, Wahlström considers John Irving’s novel The Cider House Rules published in 1985 and is regarded as a revolutionary work for that time, as it acknowledges abortion mostly as a political problem. This article will be a great option for those who want to investigate the roots of the abortion debate.


FAQs On Abortion Argumentative Essay

  • Is abortion immoral?

This question is impossible to answer correctly because each person independently determines their own moral framework. One group of people will say that abortion is a woman’s right because only she has power over her body and can make decisions about it. Another group will argue that the embryo is also a person and has the right to birth and life.

In general, the attitude towards abortion is determined based on the political and religious views of each person. Religious people generally believe that abortion is immoral because it is murder, while secular people see it as a normal medical procedure. For example, in the US, the ban on abortion was introduced in red states where the vast majority have conservative views, while blue liberal states do not support this law. Overall, it’s up to a person to decide whether they consider abortion immoral based on their own values and beliefs.

  • Is abortion legal?

The answer to this question depends on the country in which you live. There are countries in which pregnancy termination is a common medical procedure and is performed at the woman's request. There are also states in which there must be a serious reason for abortion: medical, social, or economic. Finally, there are nations in which abortion is prohibited and criminalized. For example, in Jamaica, a woman can get life imprisonment for abortion, while in Kenya, a medical worker who volunteers to perform an abortion can be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

  • Is abortion safe?

In general, modern medicine has reached such a level that abortion has become a common (albeit difficult from various points of view) medical procedure. There are several types of abortion, as well as many medical devices and means that ensure the maximum safety of the pregnancy termination. Like all other medical procedures, abortion can have various consequences and complications.

Abortions – whether safe or not - exist in all countries of the world. The thing is that more than half of them are dangerous because women have them in unsuitable conditions and without professional help. Only universal access to abortion in all parts of the world can make it absolutely safe. In such a case, it will be performed only after a thorough assessment and under the control of a medical professional who can mitigate the potential risks.

  • How safe is abortion?

If we do not talk about the ethical side of the issue related to abortion, it still has some risks. In fact, any medical procedure has them to a greater or lesser extent.

The effectiveness of the safe method in a medical setting is 80-99%. An illegal abortion (for example, the one without special indications after 12 weeks) can lead to a patient’s death, and the person who performed it will be criminally liable in this case.

Doctors do not have universal advice for all pregnant women on whether it is worth making this decision or not. However, many of them still tend to believe that any contraception - even one that may have negative side effects - is better than abortion. That’s why spreading awareness on means of contraception and free access to it is vital.

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Why Abortion Should Be Legal – Essay Writing Tips & Tricks

Jessica Nita

Table of Contents

The topic of abortion legalization or criminalization has been topical in many countries recently. Even though technology and progress are fast-moving forward, pro-life advocates continue insisting on the fact that women do not possess the right to kill their embryos.

Thus, with the debate going on across multiple domains, you can receive an assignment to compose an essay on abortion at a Law, Medicine, or Politics course.

The key topics considering in essays on abortion today include:

  • Whether the unborn fetuses can be considered human beings with the right to protection of their life by law.
  • At which term of pregnancy a fetus can already be considered a living human being.
  • What legal exceptions should be set in place to regulate women’s right to abortion.
  • What countries have already established successful legal precedents to regulate the issue.
  • Arguments of pro-and anti-abortion legislation advocates.
  • Arguments of women for and against the right to conduct abortion.

Whether you’re for or against abortion in this debate, you can face a situation in which you’ll need to debate your point. That situation is a home assignment to write a why abortion should be made legal essay. And if you’re confused about this task and don’t know how to perform it quickly and easily, we’re here to help you out.

Why Abortion Should Be Legal: Our Thoughts

Here are some ideas for why abortion should be made legal essay that our writing experts share with students needing help. You can borrow any of these themes and examine them in more depth in your argumentative essay about abortion.

  • Women’s right to have or not to have children is violated with laws regulating abortion. Such laws can cause serious socio-demographic problems as teenage girls often get pregnant because of their ignorance of birth control methods or lack of essential sexual education. Depriving them of a chance for abortion can ruin their life and health.
  • Biological research suggests that a human fetus is not a living organism at the first couple of weeks of its development, which can be aborted. Besides, women typically commit abortion at the early stages of pregnancy, knowing that aborting a child at a later term is a psychologically traumatic experience equaling murder.
  • Sometimes, pregnancy results from a crime; some women get pregnant because of a traumatic rape experience. Thus, they are totally reluctant to have a child from a rapist who committed violence against them and caused severe physical and psychological damage.
  • In the process of pregnancy development, genetic screening can reveal serious genetic disorders or risks for the fetus. Parents who are not ready to bear the burden of caring for the disabled child should have the right to terminate such a pregnancy. It’s not a violation of disabled people’s rights (as the disabled community tends to claim); it’s natural for a parent to wish to avoid giving birth to a child if they know they will doom that person to suffering.
  • In countries where abortion is illegal, shady medical practices of illegal abortions are flourishing. Women are ready to pay huge money and undergo medical manipulations in non-sterile environments to terminate their pregnancies, which is a serious legal and medical issue.
  • Women have the right to decide what to do with their bodies. If a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant and give birth to an unwanted child, she shouldn’t be urged by the law to go through this life-changing experience. Parenting should be a wanted, planned act so that children grow up in happy, welcoming families. Giving birth to an unwanted child may later lead to instances of home violence or abuse.

Any of these topics are suitable for why abortion should be made legal essay. We’ve just touched upon the theme broadly, outlining various ethical, medical, and legal issues surrounding this subject. You can take any perspective that speaks to you and develop it in more depth to craft a well-grounded essay to impress your tutor.

Pros and Cons of Abortion You Should Consider

When talking about abortion in academic works, students commonly face the challenge of evaluating the pros and cons of legalization. It’s a typical problem every researcher faces when dealing with evergreen debatable subjects, like marijuana and euthanasia legalization, ban on the death penalty and abortion, animal testing, etc.

Here are the key points you should include in your essay to show your competence in this topic.

Pros of Legal Ban on Abortion

  • Women’s disability rates resulting from improper abortions will reduce.
  • The post-abortion infertility rates will go down.
  • Unborn children’s rights will be protected.
  • The unethical practice of killing unborn children will be strictly regulated.
  • A ban on abortions is compliant with Christian ethics.
  • Birth control and sex education will be emphasized.

Cons of Legal Ban on Abortion

  • Illegal abortions are likely to flourish.
  • Raped women will have to undergo the trauma of giving birth to an unwanted child.
  • Parents of children with severe genetic disorders will have to give birth to disabled children.
  • The rate of abandoned children will rise because of unwanted infants’ abandonment in the birth hospitals.
  • Many more families will become unhappier because of the economic and psychological burden of rearing unwanted children.
  • Women will fight for their rights and feel the oppression of being not the masters of their bodies.

abortion essay introduction brainly

Follow Argumentative Articles on Abortion as Examples

Whenever you talk about sensitive subjects like abortion, the key to sounding competent and non-opinionated is to back your claims with reliable evidence.

In terms of abortion, there are hundreds of valuable sources written by competent professionals backing each side of the debate. Thus, to make your essay look professional and informed, you should first formulate your topic concisely and then conduct a library search for reliable evidence.

We recommend using professional databases for such search so that your arguments look convincing. It’s easy to say that you think that abortion should be made legal because it will be fair for women to make the final decision in this regard. But that argument is not enough for the readers to take your side.

Thus, you can follow this algorithm:

  • Choose a perspective for your analysis (ethical, religious, political, medical).
  • Find a database with credible academic sources in this area (e.g., for medical research, we strongly recommend using Google Scholar, CINAHL, or PubMed, while sources from HeinOnline or LOC can inform legal papers on abortion).
  • Sort the sources you find by relevance to your argument and strength of argumentation, using only those that fit your content and support your point.
  • It’s also vital to credit the other side of the debate (otherwise, you will sound biased). So, make sure to find sources supporting the opposite position as well, appealing to their arguments and rebating them in the process of your analysis.

Steps to Writing an Abortion Essay

Now, let’s proceed to the actual process of writing on abortion. As a rule, an essay should consist of three major parts – an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Once you get to the chosen topic, we advise completing a pre-writing exercise: making an outline for your essay. As soon as you have a couple of credible sources at hand and want to outline your significant argumentation points, use a simple outline template to do so.

OUTLINE INTRODUCTION – broad introduction of the subject. Setting the context. A thesis statement. BODY PARAGRAPH #1 – argument #1 (topic sentence). Supporting evidence. A transition to the next point. PARAGRAPH #2 – argument #2 (topic sentence). Supporting evidence. A transition to the next point. PARAGRAPH #3 – argument #3 (topic sentence). Supporting evidence. A transition to the concluding section. CONCLUSION – summary of your key points and a reference to the broader significance of the subject.

Main Difficulties When Discussing an Abortion Topic

You should keep in mind that abortion is a sensitive topic that touches the deepest strings of people’s hearts for various reasons. Some women debate the ban of abortion because of their unfortunate juvenile experiences with abortion leaving them infertile. Others want abortion to be legal because of women’s moral, ethical, and legal right to decide what to do with their bodies and lives.

Thus, whenever you write an abortion essay, make sure to choose words appropriately, use delicate, non-judgmental phrases, and not accuse anyone of right or wrong decisions regarding abortion.

Any Questions?

Having any troubles with your why abortion should be made legal essay? No panic, as our experts are always on standby to help you out. We can write a well-structured, interesting paper on this subject to cover your back and avoid delays in-home task submission.

So, if you have little time for home tasks or simply don’t want to dig into books this weekend, you can delegate the assignment to us. Talk to our managers today, and they’ll assign a competent legal or medical writer to handle an essay on abortion for you with ease.

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Persuasive Essay Guide

Persuasive Essay About Abortion

Caleb S.

Crafting a Convincing Persuasive Essay About Abortion

Published on: Feb 22, 2023

Last updated on: Nov 22, 2023

Persuasive Essay About Abortion

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Are you about to write a persuasive essay on abortion but wondering how to begin?

Writing an effective persuasive essay on the topic of abortion can be a difficult task for many students. 

It is important to understand both sides of the issue and form an argument based on facts and logical reasoning. This requires research and understanding, which takes time and effort.

In this blog, we will provide you with some easy steps to craft a persuasive essay about abortion that is compelling and convincing. Moreover, we have included some example essays and interesting facts to read and get inspired by. 

So let's start!

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How To Write a Persuasive Essay About Abortion?

Abortion is a controversial topic, with people having differing points of view and opinions on the matter. There are those who oppose abortion, while some people endorse pro-choice arguments. 

It is also an emotionally charged subject, so you need to be extra careful when crafting your persuasive essay .

Before you start writing your persuasive essay, you need to understand the following steps.

Step 1: Choose Your Position

The first step to writing a persuasive essay on abortion is to decide your position. Do you support the practice or are you against it? You need to make sure that you have a clear opinion before you begin writing. 

Once you have decided, research and find evidence that supports your position. This will help strengthen your argument. 

Check out the video below to get more insights into this topic:

Step 2: Choose Your Audience

The next step is to decide who your audience will be. Will you write for pro-life or pro-choice individuals? Or both? 

Knowing who you are writing for will guide your writing and help you include the most relevant facts and information.

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Step 3: Define Your Argument

Now that you have chosen your position and audience, it is time to craft your argument. 

Start by defining what you believe and why, making sure to use evidence to support your claims. You also need to consider the opposing arguments and come up with counter arguments. This helps make your essay more balanced and convincing.

Step 4: Format Your Essay

Once you have the argument ready, it is time to craft your persuasive essay. Follow a standard format for the essay, with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. 

Make sure that each paragraph is organized and flows smoothly. Use clear and concise language, getting straight to the point.

Step 5: Proofread and Edit

The last step in writing your persuasive essay is to make sure that you proofread and edit it carefully. Look for spelling, grammar, punctuation, or factual errors and correct them. This will help make your essay more professional and convincing.

These are the steps you need to follow when writing a persuasive essay on abortion. It is a good idea to read some examples before you start so you can know how they should be written.

Continue reading to find helpful examples.

Persuasive Essay About Abortion Examples

To help you get started, here are some example persuasive essays on abortion that may be useful for your own paper.

Short Persuasive Essay About Abortion

Persuasive Essay About No To Abortion

What Is Abortion? - Essay Example

Persuasive Speech on Abortion

Legal Abortion Persuasive Essay

Persuasive Essay About Abortion in the Philippines

Persuasive Essay about legalizing abortion

You can also read m ore persuasive essay examples to imp rove your persuasive skills.

Examples of Argumentative Essay About Abortion

An argumentative essay is a type of essay that presents both sides of an argument. These essays rely heavily on logic and evidence.

Here are some examples of argumentative essay with introduction, body and conclusion that you can use as a reference in writing your own argumentative essay. 

Abortion Persuasive Essay Introduction

Argumentative Essay About Abortion Conclusion

Argumentative Essay About Abortion Pdf

Argumentative Essay About Abortion in the Philippines

Argumentative Essay About Abortion - Introduction

Abortion Persuasive Essay Topics

If you are looking for some topics to write your persuasive essay on abortion, here are some examples:

  • Should abortion be legal in the United States?
  • Is it ethical to perform abortions, considering its pros and cons?
  • What should be done to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortions?
  • Is there a connection between abortion and psychological trauma?
  • What are the ethical implications of abortion on demand?
  • How has the debate over abortion changed over time?
  • Should there be legal restrictions on late-term abortions?
  • Does gender play a role in how people view abortion rights?
  • Is it possible to reduce poverty and unwanted pregnancies through better sex education?
  • How is the anti-abortion point of view affected by religious beliefs and values? 

These are just some of the potential topics that you can use for your persuasive essay on abortion. Think carefully about the topic you want to write about and make sure it is something that interests you. 

Check out m ore persuasive essay topics that will help you explore other things that you can write about!

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Facts About Abortion You Need to Know

Here are some facts about abortion that will help you formulate better arguments.

  • According to the Guttmacher Institute , 1 in 4 pregnancies end in abortion.
  • The majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester.
  • Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with less than a 0.5% risk of major complications.
  • In the United States, 14 states have laws that restrict or ban most forms of abortion after 20 weeks gestation.
  • Seven out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • In places where abortion is illegal, more women die during childbirth and due to complications resulting from pregnancy.
  • A majority of pregnant women who opt for abortions do so for financial and social reasons.
  • According to estimates, 56 million abortions occur annually.

In conclusion, these are some of the examples, steps, and topics that you can use to write a persuasive essay. Make sure to do your research thoroughly and back up your arguments with evidence. This will make your essay more professional and convincing. 

Need the services of a professional essay writing service ? We've got your back!

MyPerfectWords.com is a persuasive essay writing service that provides help to students in the form of professionally written essays. Our persuasive essay writer can craft quality persuasive essays on any topic, including abortion. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What should i talk about in an essay about abortion.

When writing an essay about abortion, it is important to cover all the aspects of the subject. This includes discussing both sides of the argument, providing facts and evidence to support your claims, and exploring potential solutions.

What is a good argument for abortion?

A good argument for abortion could be that it is a woman’s choice to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It is also important to consider the potential risks of carrying a pregnancy to term.

Caleb S. (Marketing, Linguistics)

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

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  • v.19(1); 2017 Jun

Abortion Law and Policy Around the World

Marge berer.

International coordinator of the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, London, UK, and was the editor of Reproductive Health Matters , which she founded, from 1993 to 2015.

The aim of this paper is to provide a panoramic view of laws and policies on abortion around the world, giving a range of country-based examples. It shows that the plethora of convoluted laws and restrictions surrounding abortion do not make any legal or public health sense. What makes abortion safe is simple and irrefutable—when it is available on the woman’s request and is universally affordable and accessible. From this perspective, few existing laws are fit for purpose. However, the road to law reform is long and difficult. In order to achieve the right to safe abortion, advocates will need to study the political, health system, legal, juridical, and socio-cultural realities surrounding existing law and policy in their countries, and decide what kind of law they want (if any). The biggest challenge is to determine what is possible to achieve, build a critical mass of support, and work together with legal experts, parliamentarians, health professionals, and women themselves to change the law—so that everyone with an unwanted pregnancy who seeks an abortion can have it, as early as possible and as late as necessary.

Toward a definition of decriminalization of abortion

In simple terms, the decriminalization of abortion means removing specific criminal sanctions against abortion from the law, and changing the law and related policies and regulations to achieve the following:

  • not punishing anyone for providing safe abortion,
  • not punishing anyone for having an abortion,
  • not involving the police in investigating or prosecuting safe abortion provision or practice,
  • not involving the courts in deciding whether to allow an abortion, and
  • treating abortion like every other form of health care—that is, using best practice in service delivery, the training of providers, and the development and application of evidence-based guidelines, and applying existing law to deal with any dangerous or negligent practices.

Some history

Abortion was legally restricted in almost every country by the end of the nineteenth century. The most important sources of such laws were the imperial countries of Europe—Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, and Italy—who imposed their own laws forbidding abortion on their colonies.

According to the United Nations Population Division’s comprehensive website on abortion laws, legal systems under which abortion is legally restricted fall into three main categories, developed mostly during the period of colonialism from the sixteenth century onward:

  • common law: the UK and most of its former colonies—Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, the United States, and the Anglophone countries of Africa, the Caribbean, and Oceania;
  • civil law: most of the rest of Europe, including Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, and their former colonies, Turkey and Japan, most of Latin America, non-Anglophone sub-Saharan Africa, and the former Soviet republics of Central and Western Asia. In addition, the laws of several North African and Middle Eastern countries have been influenced by French civil law; and
  • Islamic law: the countries of North Africa and Western Asia and others with predominantly Muslim populations, and having an influence on personal law, for example, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan. 1

Historically, restrictions on abortion were introduced for three main reasons:

  • Abortion was dangerous and abortionists were killing a lot of women. Hence, the laws had a public health intention to protect women—who nevertheless sought abortions and risked their lives in doing so, as they still do today if they have no other choice.
  • Abortion was considered a sin or a form of transgression of morality, and the laws were intended to punish and act as a deterrent.
  • Abortion was restricted to protect fetal life in some or all circumstances.

Since abortion methods have become safe, laws against abortion make sense only for punitive and deterrent purposes, or to protect fetal life over that of women’s lives. While some prosecutions for unsafe abortions that cause injury or death still take place, far more often existing laws are being used against those having and providing safe abortions outside the law today. Ironically, it is restrictive abortion laws—leftovers from another age—that are responsible for the deaths and millions of injuries to women who cannot afford to pay for a safe illegal abortion.

This paper provides a panoramic view of current laws and policies on abortion in order to show that, from a global perspective, few of these laws makes any legal or public health sense. The fact is that the more restrictive the law, the more it is flouted, within and across borders. Whatever has led to the current impasse in law reform for women’s benefit—whether it is called stigma, misogyny, religion, morality, or political cowardice—few, if any, existing laws on abortion are fit for purpose.

Efforts to reform abortion law and practice since 1900

The first country to reform its abortion law was the Soviet Union, spurred by feminist Alexandra Kollantai, through a decree on women’s health care in October 1920. 2 Since then, progressive abortion law reform (the kind that benefits women) has been justified on public health and human rights grounds, to promote smaller families for population and environmental reasons, and because women’s education and improved socioeconomic status have created alternatives to childbearing. Perhaps most importantly, controlling fertility has become both technically feasible and acceptable in almost all cultures today. Yet despite 100 years of campaigning for safe abortion, the use of contraception has been completely decriminalized while abortion has not.

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures if done following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidance. 3 But it is also the cause of at least one in six maternal deaths from complications when it is unsafe. 4 In 2004, research by WHO based on estimates and data from all countries showed that the broader the legal grounds for abortion, the fewer deaths there are from unsafe abortions. 5 In fact, the research found that there are only six main grounds for allowing abortion apply in most countries:

  • ground 1 – risk to life
  • ground 2 – rape or sexual abuse
  • ground 3 – serious fetal anomaly
  • ground 4 – risk to physical and sometimes mental health
  • ground 5 – social and economic reasons
  • ground 6 – on request

With each additional ground, moving from ground 1 to 6, the findings show that the number of deaths falls. Countries with almost no deaths from unsafe abortion are those that allow abortion on request without restriction.

This is proof that that the best way to consign unsafe abortion to history is by removing all legal restrictions and providing universal access to safe abortion. But the question remains, how do we get from where things are now to where they could (and should) be?

Attempts to move from almost total criminalization to partial (let alone total) decriminalization of abortion have been slow and fraught with difficulties. Why? Because the best way to control women’s lives is through (the risk of) pregnancy. The traditional belief that women should accept “all the children God gives,” the recent glorification of the fetus as having more value than the woman it is dependent on, and male-dominated culture are all used extremely effectively to justify criminal restrictions. Nevertheless, the need for abortion is one of the defining experiences of having a uterus.

Globally, 25% of pregnancies ended in induced abortion in 2010–2014, including in countries with high rates of contraceptive prevalence. 6 Increasingly, thanks to years of effective campaigning, more and more women are defending the need for abortion, as well as the right to a safe abortion—and access to it if and when they need it. Moreover, a growing number of governments, in both the Global North and more recently the Global South, have begun to acknowledge that preventing unsafe abortions is part of their commitment to reducing avoidable maternal deaths and their obligations under international human rights law.

While some people still wish that this could be achieved through a higher prevalence of contraceptive use or post-abortion care alone, the facts are against it. Those facts include both the occurrence of contraceptive failure among those who do use a method and the failure to use contraception, both of which are common events and sexual behaviors.

The role of international human rights bodies in calling for law reform

A new layer of involvement in advocacy for safe abortion, based on an analysis of how existing laws affect women and girls and whether they meet international human rights standards, has emerged in recent years. United Nations human rights bodies—including the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee on Economic, Social and Political Rights, the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, and the Special Rapporteurs on the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the rights of women in Africa, and torture—have played an increasingly visible role in calling for progressive abortion law reform. 7

Regional bodies such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) have been very active in this regard as well. The ACHPR called in January 2016 for the decriminalization of abortion across Africa, in line with the Maputo Protocol, and renewed that call in January 2017, making waves across the region. 8

Legalize or decriminalize: What’s in a word?

Interestingly, no human rights body has gone so far as to call for abortion to be permitted at the request of the woman, yet many have called for abortion to be decriminalized. This raises the question of what is understood in different quarters by the term “decriminalization.”

For many years, the abortion rights movement internationally has called for “safe, legal abortion.” More recently, calls for the “decriminalization of abortion” have also emerged. Do these mean the same thing? In simplistic terms, they might be differentiated like this: legalizing abortion means keeping abortion in the law in some form by identifying the grounds on which it is allowed, while decriminalizing abortion means removing criminal sanctions against abortion altogether.

In that sense, abortion is legal on one or more grounds (mostly as exceptions to the law) in all but a few countries today, while Canada stands out as the only country to date that, through a Supreme Court decision in 1988, effectively decriminalized abortion altogether. 9 No other country, no matter how liberal its law reform, has been willing to take abortion completely out of the law that delimits it.

However, this distinction is often not what is meant. Instead, the two terms are used interchangeably—that is, abortion may be legalized or decriminalized on some or all grounds. No one is likely to be able to change this lack of differentiation in terminology. Nevertheless, it is crucial when recommending abortion law reform to be clear what exactly is and is not intended. I will come back to this later in the paper, after exploring the complexity of the changes being called for, no matter which of the two terms is used.

The law on abortion in countries today

Criminal restrictions on the practice of abortion are contained in statute law—in other words, laws passed by legislatures, sometimes as part of criminal or penal codes, which consolidate a group of criminal statutes. In the UK, for example, abortion was criminalized in sections 58 and 59 of the Offences against the Person Act of 1861, with one aspect further defined in the Infant Life Preservation Act of 1929, and then allowed on certain grounds and conditions in Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland) in the 1967 Abortion Act, which was then amended further in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990. In the 1967 Abortion Act, legal grounds for abortion are set out as exceptions to the criminal law, yet the 1861 act is still in force and still being used to prosecute illegal abortions today. 10

Ireland, formerly a part of the UK, was also subject to the 1861 Offences against the Person Act and revoked sections 58–59 only in the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act of 2013, which imposed its own almost total criminalization of abortion. 11 Sierra Leone, a former British colony, also revoked the 1861 Offences against the Person Act in the Safe Abortion Act, passed in December 2015 and again a second time unanimously in February 2016. That act allows abortion on request during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and until week 24 in cases of rape, incest, or risk to health of the fetus or the woman or girl, but it was not finally signed into law. 12

At the end of the twentieth century, abortion was legally permitted to save the life of the woman in 98% of the world’s countries. 13 The proportion of countries allowing abortion on other grounds was as follows: to preserve the woman’s physical health (63%); to preserve the woman’s mental health (62%); in case of rape, sexual abuse, or incest (43%); fetal anomaly or impairment (39%); economic or social reasons (33%); and on request (27%).

The number of countries in 2002 that permitted each of these grounds varied greatly by region. Thus, abortion was permitted upon request in 65% of developed countries but only 14% of developing countries, and for economic and social reasons in 75% of developed countries but only 19% of developing countries. 14 Some countries permit additional grounds for abortion, such as if the woman has HIV, is under the age of 16 or over the age of 40, is not married, or has many children. A few also allow it to protect existing children or because of contraceptive failure. 15

These percentages, published in 2002, are out of date, but they have not changed dramatically. In late 2017, research updating the world’s laws on abortion and adding new information about related policies, conducted under the aegis of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research/Human Reproductive Programme at WHO, will be incorporated into the United Nations Population Division’s website. 16

Regulating abortion

There is much more to this story, however. In addition to statute law, other ways to liberalize, restrict, or regulate access to abortion, which also have legal standing, include the following:

  • national constitutions in at least 20 countries, such as the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution (1983) in Ireland;
  • supreme court decisions, such as in the United States (1973, 2016), Canada (1988), Colombia (2006), and Brazil (2012), as well as higher court decisions, such as in India (2016, 2017) allowing individual women abortions beyond the 20-week upper limit;
  • customary or religious law, such as interpretations of Muslim law that allow abortion up to 120 days in Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates but do not allow abortion at all in other majority Muslim countries;
  • regulations that require confidentiality on the part of health professionals on the one hand, but on the other hand require health professionals to report a criminal act they may learn of, for example, while providing treatment for complications of unsafe abortion;
  • medical ethical codes, which, for example, allow or disallow conscientious objection; and
  • clinical and other regulatory standards and guidelines governing the provision of abortion, such as reporting guidelines, disciplinary procedures, parental or spousal consent, and restrictions on which health professionals may provide abortions and where, who may approve an abortion, and which methods may be used—as adjuncts to (though not always formally part of) the law.

Reed Boland has found that the distinction between laws and regulations governing abortion is not always clear and that some countries, usually those where abortion laws are highly restrictive, have issued no regulations at all. In the most complex cases, there are multiple texts over many years which may contain conflicting provisions and obscure and outdated language. The upshot may be that no one is sure when abortion is actually allowed and when it isn’t, which may serve to stop it being provided safely and openly at all. 17

Uganda is a case in point. According to a recently published paper by Amanda Cleeve et al., Uganda’s Constitution and Penal Code conflict with each other, leading to ambiguous interpretations and lack of awareness of the fact that abortion is legal to protect women’s health and life. Moreover, while Uganda has a national reproductive health policy, it is not supported in law and is not being implemented. In 2015, in order to clarify this situation, the minister of health and other stakeholders developed Standards and Evidence-based Guidelines on the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion . These included details of who can provide abortions, and where and how, and assigned health service responsibilities, such as level of care and post-abortion care. However, the guidelines were withdrawn in January 2016 due to religious and political opposition. 18

Post-abortion care to treat the consequences of unsafe abortions has been instituted since it was approved in the International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action in 1994, in countries where there was little or no prospect of law reform, as a stopgap measure, to save lives. But this has not been a success in African countries such as Tanzania, where, under the 1981 Revised Penal Code, it remains unclear whether abortion is legal to preserve a woman’s physical or mental health or her life, and where 16% of maternal deaths are still due to unsafe abortions. 19 Although the government has tried to expand the availability of post-abortion care, a 2015 study found that “significant gaps still existed and most women were not receiving the care they needed.” 20 In early 2016, according to a CCTV-Africa report, the newly appointed prime minister, in tandem with the president, threatened to dismiss and possibly imprison doctors performing illegal abortions following recent reports of doctors in both public and private hospitals accepting payments for doing abortions and a reported increase in cases of complications. 21

Sometimes, other laws unrelated to abortion create barriers. In Morocco, the abortion law was established in 1920 when Morocco was a French protectorate. In May 2015, following a public debate arising from reports of women’s deaths from unsafe abortion, a reform process to expand legal protections was initiated by a directive of the king. According to the Moroccan Family Planning Association, despite a consensus that abortion should be permitted within the first three months if the woman’s physical and mental health is in danger, and in cases of rape, incest, or congenital malformation, unmarried women would be excluded because it is illegal to have sex outside marriage. 22

In India, a very liberal abortion law for its day was passed in 1971, but it has been poorly and unevenly implemented, such that high rates of morbidity and mortality persist to this day. 23 Even 15 years ago, the process for clinic registration as an approved abortion provider was arduous, limiting the number of clinics. 24 Moreover, two other laws have led to restrictions on abortion access: the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, which forbids ultrasound for purposes of sex determination and has led to restrictions on all second-trimester abortion provision, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which requires reporting of underage sex, so that minors who become pregnant cannot feel safe if they seek an abortion. 25

Restricting abortion without changing the law

Decent laws and policies can be sabotaged and access to abortion can be restricted without amending the law itself, but instead through policies pressuring women to have more children, public denunciation of abortion by political and religious leaders, or restricting access to services. Bureaucratic obstacles may be placed in women’s paths, such as requiring unnecessary medical tests, counselling even if women feel no need for it, having to get one or more doctors’ signatures, having to wait between making an appointment and having an abortion, or having to obtain consent from a partner, parent(s) or guardian, or even a judge.

In Turkey, for example, in 1983, in response to population growth, the government passed a law allowing fertility regulation, termination of pregnancy on request up to 10 weeks after conception, and sterilization. A married woman seeking an abortion was required only to obtain her husband’s permission or submit a formal statement of assumption of all responsibility prior to the procedure. 26 In recent years, however, President Erdogan has taken a pronatalist stance and urged Turkish couples to have at least three children. Since 2012, he has been calling abortion murder, expressing opposition to the provision of abortion services and threatening to restrict the law. Women protested against these threats in such large numbers in 2012 that to date there have been no changes to the law itself. But administrative changes were made in order to make the procedure for booking an appointment for an abortion—which is still primarily provided by gynecologists in hospitals—more difficult.

These changes have made it nearly impossible to obtain an abortion in a state hospital; indeed, some state hospitals have stopped providing abortions altogether. Although comparative data are not available, a 2016 study found that of 431 state hospitals with departments of obstetrics and gynecology, only 7.8% provided abortions without restriction as to reason, 78% provided abortions only if there was a medical necessity, and 11.8% did not provide abortions at all. Of the 58 teaching and research hospitals with departments of obstetrics and gynecology, only 17.3% provided abortion services without restriction as to reason, 71.1% only if there was a medical necessity, and 11.4% not at all. Overall, 53 of 81 provinces in Turkey did not have a state hospital that provided abortions without restriction as to reason, although this is permitted under the law. 27

Thus, the availability of safe abortion depends not only on permissive legislation but also on a permissive environment, political support, and the ability and willingness of health services and health professionals to make abortion available. In contrast to Turkey, Ethiopia is an example of the success of that support.

Law reform for the better—slowly but surely

In 2005, Ethiopia liberalized its abortion law. Previously, abortion was allowed only to save the life of the woman or protect her physical health. The current law allows abortion in cases of rape, incest, or fetal impairment, as well as if the life or physical health of the woman is in danger, if she has a physical or mental disability, or if she is a minor who is physically or mentally unprepared for childbirth. 28 This is a liberal law for sub-Saharan Africa, but for a long time, little was known about the extent of its implementation. In 2006, the government published national standards and guidelines on safe abortion that permitted the use of misoprostol, with or without mifepristone, in accordance with WHO guidance. A nationwide study in 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute estimated that within a few years, 27% of abortions were legal, though most abortions were still unsafe.

A 2011 study by Jemila Abdi and Mulugeta Gebremariam found that Ethiopian health care providers’ reasons for not providing abortions were mainly personal or due to lack of permission from an employer or the unavailability of services at their facility. Only 27% felt comfortable working at a site where abortion was provided. Reasons for not being comfortable were mainly religious, but also included personal values and a lack of training. Although 29% thought it should be a woman’s choice to have an abortion, 55% disagreed. The study also uncovered a lack of medical equipment and trained personnel, and bureaucratic problems at clinical sites. 29

Even so, major efforts were and are still being made to improve access at the primary level by constructing more health centers and training more mid-level providers. Between 2008 and 2014, the proportion of abortions provided in health facilities almost doubled. In 2014, almost three-fourths of facilities that could potentially provide abortions or post-abortion care did so, including 67% of the 2,600 public health centers nationwide, 80% of the 1,300 private or nongovernmental facilities, and 98% of the 120 public hospitals. The proportion of all abortion-related services provided by mid-level health workers increased from 48% in 2008 to 83% in 2014. While a substantial number of abortions continue to occur outside of health facilities, the proportion is falling, showing that change is possible but also that it takes time. 30

In recent decades in Latin America, a combination of legal reforms, court rulings, and public health guidelines have improved access to safe abortion for women. 31 These include allowing abortion on request in the first trimester of pregnancy, as in Mexico City (since 2007), and in Uruguay (since 2012). In Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Costa Rica, higher courts have been instrumental in interpreting the constitutionality and scope of specific grounds for abortion, though their judgments are not always implemented. In countries such as Peru, guidelines issued by hospitals or by governments at federal or state levels govern the enforcement of permitted grounds. 32 Additional steps needed constitute a huge task, as Ethiopia has shown—training providers and ensuring that services provide legal abortions, as well as informing women that these changes are taking place and that services are available.

Self-use of medical abortion in the absence of law and policy reform

In other Latin American countries, abortion laws have remained highly restrictive in spite of campaigns for women’s sexual and reproductive rights and human rights for more than 30 years. As a result, and thanks to the advent of new technology, women have begun to take matters into their own hands. An uncounted number of women, probably in the millions, has been obtaining and using misoprostol to self-induce abortion (widely available for gastric ulcers) from a range of sources—pharmacies, websites, black market—since its abortifacient effectiveness was first discovered in the late 1980s. This practice, begun in Brazil, has spread to many other countries and regions. In response, legal restrictions and regulations on access to medical abortion pills have been imposed by countries such as Brazil and Egypt in an effort to stop the unstoppable.

Moreover, in the past decade, feminist groups have set up safe abortion information hotlines in at least 20 countries, and health professionals are providing information and access to abortion pills via telemedicine, including Women Help Women, Women on Web, safe2choose, the Tabbot Foundation in Australia, and TelAbortion in the United States. 33

In Uruguay, which has hospital-based outpatient abortion care, Lilian Abracinskas, executive director of Mujer y Salud en Uruguay, said in a recent interview, “ In Uruguay, we don’t have doctors who do abortions. Abortion with pills is the only way and it isn’t possible to choose another method, such as manual vacuum aspiration. Health professionals are willing to be involved before and after, but not in the abortion.” 34 Thus, abortion service delivery has been reduced to providing information, prescribing pills, and conducting a follow-up appointment if the woman has concerns. It can be that simple (although it does restrict access to aspiration and surgical methods).

Abortion law as a political football and a weapon against women

While the overall trend globally is toward more progressive laws, some countries where the rightwing has taken power have gone backward. In Chile, from 1931 to 1989, the law allowed abortion on therapeutic grounds, described in the Penal Code as “termination of a pregnancy before the fetus becomes viable for the purpose of saving the mother’s life or safeguarding her health.” Pinochet, the dictator who overthrew the Allende government, banned abortion in 1989 as he left office, leaving no legal grounds at all. 35 It took until 2016 for Michelle Bachelet’s government, during her second term in office, to introduce a bill permitting three grounds for legal abortion—to save the woman’s life, in cases of rape or sexual abuse, and in cases of fatal fetal anomaly—which are more narrow than what was in place between 1931 and 1989 but are the best that its supporters think they can achieve today. 36

In Russia, the law has gone back and forth between permissive and restrictive with every change of political head of state. Stalin made abortion illegal when he took over from Lenin, and then after 1945, abortion was again permitted on broad grounds across the Soviet Union and in its satellite countries in Eastern Europe and West Asia, while under Vladimir Putin a long list of restrictions has been imposed, greatly reducing the number of grounds on which abortion is permitted. In January 2016, a bill aiming to “rule out the uncontrolled use of pharmaceutical drugs destined for termination of pregnancy” was tabled in parliament. It would have banned retail sales and limited the list of organizations permitted to buy medical abortion pills wholesale. It would also have banned abortions in private clinics and removed payment for them from state insurance policies. And it would not have allowed abortions to be covered by state health care unless the pregnancy threatened the woman’s life. The bill was withdrawn after strong public protest that was coordinated by the Russian Association for Population and Development; however, attempts at further restriction are likely to continue. 37

In a number of Central and Eastern European countries, the backlash against communist rule and the increasing influence of conservative religious figures has led to regular attempts to undermine permissive abortion laws. Poland has had the worst of it. In 1993, a liberal law was replaced by a very restrictive law that removed “difficult living conditions” as a legal ground for abortion, leaving only three grounds: serious threat to the life or health of the pregnant woman, as attested by two physicians; cases of rape or incest if confirmed by a prosecutor; and cases in which antenatal tests, confirmed by two physicians, demonstrated that the fetus was seriously and irreversibly damaged. 38 This law, in spite of an attempt to ban all abortions in 2016, remains in place due to months of national action by women’s groups, including a national women’s strike on October 3, 2016. However, in November 2016, the government approved a regulation offering pregnant women carrying a seriously disabled or unviable fetus a one-time payment of €1,000 to carry the pregnancy to term, even if the baby would be born dead or die soon after delivery. The package includes access to hospice and medical care, psychological counselling, baptism or a blessing and burial, and a person who will act as an “assistant to the family” and coordinate the support. The purported aim was to reduce the number of legal abortions on grounds of fetal anomaly. 39 This horrendous proposal, nasty anti-abortion propaganda, and systematic pressure on hospitals in Poland to stop doing abortions on medical grounds exemplify the right-wing extremism of the anti-abortion movement today, whose epicenter is in the United States and whose war on women sometimes feels relentless. 40

But this is not stopping women from having abortions.

Keeping laws and policies that benefit women in clear sight

Cuba was the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to reform its abortion law in favor of women, with a law that remains unique. Since 1965, abortion has been available on request up to the tenth week of pregnancy through the national health system. The Penal Code, adopted in 1979, says that an abortion is considered illegal only if it is without the consent of the pregnant woman, is unsafe, or is provided for profit. 41

In Japan, the law allowing abortion, enacted in 1948, was initially based on eugenics but was a liberal law in practice. Under this law, abortion became the primary mode of birth control in the country. The law was reformed in 1996 to omit all references to eugenics. Abortion is now permitted to protect health, which includes socioeconomic reasons, and in cases of sexual offenses. Abortion was and remains the main form of fertility control. The great majority of abortions fall under the health protection indication. Nearly all abortions are in the first trimester. 42

In recent years in some countries, laws to legalize abortion are found in public health statutes, court decisions, and policies and regulations on sexual and reproductive health care, rather than as part of the criminal law. Uruguay’s 2012 law is an example of public health legislation that sets out procedures and health care standards for the provision of abortion services. 43

In December 2014, the parliament of Luxembourg voted to remove abortion from the Penal Code up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and said that the woman no longer had to show she was “in distress” due to her pregnancy. Regulations on who can provide abortions were also revised. 44 In France, in 2014, 2015, and 2016, the 1975 Veil Law was reformed to increase access to abortion and reduce barriers. Women no longer have to be in a “state of distress” in France either, but need only request an abortion. The required seven-day “reflection period” between the request for an abortion and the abortion itself was also dropped. Most recently, midwives are now permitted to provide medical abortion, and the costs for all abortions are now reimbursed. 45

Sweden’s law is among the most liberal, though abortion is not entirely decriminalized. The Swedish law was amended in 1938, 1946, 1963, 1975, 1995, 2007, and 2008. Abortion is available on request up to 18 weeks. After that, permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare is required and may not be granted if the fetus is viable. Appeal is not permitted. Regulations govern who provides abortions and where. Any person not authorized to practice medicine who performs an abortion on another person can be fined or imprisoned for up to a year. Abortion is subsidized by the government; 95% of abortions take place before 12 weeks, and almost none after 18 weeks. Most are medical abortions. 46

In Australia, each state and the Capital Territory have a different law, ranging from very liberal to very restrictive; several are in the process of change. 47 In the United States in 1973, the Supreme Court held that criminalizing abortion violated a woman’s right to privacy and said that abortion should be a decision between a woman and her doctor. However, the court also held that US states have an interest in ensuring the safety and well-being of pregnant women, as well as the potential of human life. This opened a door to restrictions that become greater as pregnancy progresses, opening a Pandora’s box for states to impose restrictions that are tying up state and federal courts to this day:

  • first trimester: a state cannot regulate abortion beyond requiring that the procedure be performed by a licensed doctor in medically safe conditions;
  • second trimester: a state may regulate abortion if the regulations are reasonably related to the health of the pregnant woman; and
  • third trimester: the state’s interest in protecting the potential human life outweighs the woman’s right to privacy, and the state may prohibit abortions unless abortion is necessary to save her life or health. 48

It is impossible not to think that no law is the best law when it comes to abortion, which brings us back to Canada, where abortion has not been restricted since 1988 and is available on request with no stipulations as to who must provide it or where. 49 Although abortion is not easily accessible in remote areas, and Canada was exceedingly slow to approve mifepristone, 50 opposition to abortion has never developed a foothold. The benefits for women of having no law are crystal clear. 51

Legalization or decriminalization: Closing the circle

Although recent calls for the decriminalization of abortion by human rights bodies, politicians, and some feminist groups aim to decriminalize only certain grounds and conditions related to abortion, these are far better than nothing. Thus, in Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru, where abortion is severely legally restricted, calls to “decriminalize abortion” include only three to four grounds—to protect the life and health of the woman, in cases of severe or fatal fetal anomalies, and as a result of rape or sexual abuse. While the great majority of abortions are not for these reasons, they are the only grounds that stand a chance of achieving majority approval through law reform in settings where “everything” is simply not in the cards.

In Africa, the Maputo Protocol is legally binding on the 49 states that have ratified it. The 2016 call by the ACHPR for the decriminalization of abortion across Africa is based on the Maputo Protocol, which calls for safe abortion to be authorized by states “in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the fetus.” 52 However, in January 2017, at the African Leaders’ Summit on Safe and Legal Abortion, the ACHPR went further, calling for safe, legal abortion as a human right, which by any definition surely exceeds the Maputo Protocol’s boundaries. 53

At bottom, the extent of decriminalization aimed for is a choice between the ideal and the practicable, and reflects the extent to which abortion is seen as a bona fide form of health care—not just by advocates for the right to safe abortion but also by politicians, health professionals, the media, and the public. The fact that abortion is still legally restricted in almost all countries is not just a historical legacy but indicative of the continuing ambivalence and negativity about abortion in most societies, no matter how old or where the law originally came from.

Some abortion rights supporters seem to have an underlying fear that without leaving something in the criminal law, “bad things” may start to happen. Canada proves this is not the case. Granted, not everywhere is Canada. But there are general criminal laws that allow the punishment of wrongdoing—such as forcing a woman to have an abortion against her will, giving her medical abortion pills without her knowledge, or causing injury or death through a dangerous procedure. These are laws against grievous bodily harm, assault, or manslaughter, which can be applied without the need for a criminal statute on abortion.

Changing the law to benefit women

Successfully changing the law on abortion is the work of years. Advocates do not get a lot of chances to change the law and need to decide what they want to end up with before campaigning for it, with the confidence that whatever they propose has a chance of being implemented. Another chance may not come again soon.

Allies are crucial. Most important are parliamentarians, health professionals, legal experts, women’s groups and organizations, human rights groups, family planning supporters—and above all, women themselves. Achieving a critical mass of support among all these groups is key to successful law reform, as is defeating the opposition, which can have an influence beyond its numbers.

Those unable to contemplate no law at all must confront the fact that each legal ground for abortion may be interpreted liberally or narrowly, and thereby implemented differently in different settings, or may not be implemented at all. The challenge is to define which abortions should remain criminal and what the punishment should be. Even if only some grounds would be considered acceptable, the question of who decides and on what basis remains when reforming existing law.

Wording becomes critical to supporting good practice. For example, grounds which are based on risk are particularly tricky. The definition of “risk” is itself complex, and the extent of risk may be hedged with uncertainty. Risk to the woman’s life, health, or mental health and risk of serious fetal anomaly have been subjected to challenge and disagreement among professionals. As Christian Fiala, head of the Gynmed Ambulatorium in Austria, has noted, “There is only one way to be sure a woman’s life is at risk, that is—after she dies.” 54

Reed Boland explores the importance of wording in depth with regard to the health ground for abortion:

The wording of [the health] indication varies greatly from country to country, particularly given the range of languages and legal traditions involved. Sometimes … there must be a risk to health. Great Britain’s law, for example … allows abortion where “continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman …” Sometimes … there must be a danger to health. Burkina Faso’s Penal Code permits abortions when “continuation of the pregnancy … endangers the health of the woman …” And in some countries there must only be medical or health reasons. In Vanuatu, there must be “good medical reasons”, in Djibouti “therapeutic reasons”, and in Pakistan a requirement of “necessary treatment”. These concepts are not necessarily the same. 55

Legislating on second-trimester abortions presents particular difficulties. Many laws say little or nothing about second-trimester abortions, which has a proscriptive effect. Second-trimester abortions constitute an estimated 10–15% of abortions globally, but as many as 25% in India and South Africa due to poor access to services. When they are unsafe, they account for a large proportion of hospital admissions for treatment of complications and are responsible for a disproportionate number of deaths. Hence, the law should protect second-trimester abortions assiduously. Yet social disapproval of these abortions can run high, and laws tend to be increasingly restrictive as pregnancy progresses, even laws that are liberal with regard to the first trimester. The mistaken belief that second-trimester abortions can be legislated away persists, despite the facts. 56

Restrictive abortion laws are being broken on a daily basis by millions of women and numerous abortion providers. Even in countries where the law is less restrictive, research shows that the letter of the law is being stretched in all sorts of ways to accommodate women’s needs. Yet opposition and a stubborn unwillingness to act continue to hamper efforts to meet women’s need for abortion without restrictions.


It should be clear that the plethora of convoluted laws and restrictions on abortion do not make any legal or public health sense. What makes abortion safe is simple and irrefutable—when it is available on the woman’s request and universally affordable and accessible. From this perspective, few existing laws are fit for purpose but merely repeat every possible permutation of the self-same restrictions.

The aim of this paper was not to provide answers or roadmaps, because in every country prevailing conditions must be taken into account. The aim was to motivate transformative thinking about whether any criminal law on abortion is necessary. Treating abortion as essential health care is a major step forward, and where the national setting insists on some sort of law, advocates could draft the simplest, most supportive law possible, placing first-trimester abortion care at the primary and community level, ensuring second-trimester services, involving mid-level providers, increasing women’s awareness of services and the law, aiming for universal access, integrating WHO-approved methods, and addressing social attitudes to reduce opposition. Space did not permit me to raise the issues of cost and public versus private services, but they are two major aspects that deserve priority consideration.

If it were up to me, all criminal sanctions against abortion would be revoked, making abortion available at the request of the only person who counts—the one who is pregnant. And as with all pregnancy care, abortion would be free at the point of care and universally accessible from very early on in pregnancy.

Canada has proved that no criminal law is feasible and acceptable. Sweden has proved that abortions after 18 weeks can effectively disappear with very good services, and WHO has shown that first-trimester abortions can be provided safely and effectively at the primary and community level by trained mid-level providers and provision of medical abortion pills by trained pharmacy workers. Finally, web- and phone-based telemedicine services are showing that clinic-based services are not required to provide medical abortion pills safely and effectively.

But to achieve these goals, or something close to them, it takes a strong and active national coalition, a critical mass of support, and—with luck and knowing what the goalposts are—less than 100 years of campaigning to make change happen on the ground.


This paper began as a presentation on the decriminalization of abortion at the FIAPAC Conference in Lisbon on October 13, 2016. I would like to thank the following individuals for information presented there that enriched this paper: Angela Dawson (information on Australia), Hamida Nkata (information on Tanzania), S. Sinan Ozalp (information on Turkey), Emily McLean (information on Ethiopia), Amanda Cleeve (information on Uganda), Joyce Arthur (information on Canada), and Amanda Huber (information on Laos). Much of the recent country-based information here was gleaned during my editing of the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion newsletter. 57 Many thanks to Sally Sheldon and Kinga Jelinska for helpful comments on a previous draft. Any errors are my own.

Read our research on: Israel | Internet & Technology | Religion

Regions & Countries

2. social and moral considerations on abortion.

Relatively few Americans view the morality of abortion in stark terms: Overall, just 7% of all U.S. adults say abortion is morally acceptable in all cases, and 13% say it is morally wrong in all cases. A third say that abortion is morally wrong in  most  cases, while about a quarter (24%) say it is morally acceptable most of the time. About an additional one-in-five do not consider abortion a moral issue.

A chart showing wide religious and partisan differences in views of the morality of abortion

There are wide differences on this question by political party and religious affiliation. Among Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican Party, most say that abortion is morally wrong either in most (48%) or all cases (20%). Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, meanwhile, only about three-in-ten (29%) hold a similar view. About four-in-ten Democrats say abortion is morally  acceptable  in most (32%) or all (11%) cases, while an additional 28% say abortion is not a moral issue. 

White evangelical Protestants overwhelmingly say abortion is morally wrong in most (51%) or all cases (30%). A slim majority of Catholics (53%) also view abortion as morally wrong, but many also say it is morally acceptable in most (24%) or all cases (4%), or that it is not a moral issue (17%). And among religiously unaffiliated Americans, about three-quarters see abortion as morally acceptable (45%) or not a moral issue (32%).

There is strong alignment between people’s views of whether abortion is morally wrong and whether it should be illegal. For example, among U.S. adults who take the view that abortion should be illegal in all cases without exception, fully 86% also say abortion is always morally wrong. The prevailing view among adults who say abortion should be legal in all circumstances is that abortion is not a moral issue (44%), though notable shares of this group also say it is morally acceptable in all (27%) or most (22%) cases. 

Most Americans who say abortion should be illegal with some exceptions take the view that abortion is morally wrong in  most  cases (69%). Those who say abortion should be legal with some exceptions are somewhat more conflicted, with 43% deeming abortion morally acceptable in most cases and 26% saying it is morally wrong in most cases; an additional 24% say it is not a moral issue. 

The survey also asked respondents who said abortion is morally wrong in at least some cases whether there are situations where abortion should still be legal  despite  being morally wrong. Roughly half of U.S. adults (48%) say that there are, in fact, situations where abortion is morally wrong but should still be legal, while just 22% say that whenever abortion is morally wrong, it should also be illegal. An additional 28% either said abortion is morally acceptable in all cases or not a moral issue, and thus did not receive the follow-up question.

Across both political parties and all major Christian subgroups – including Republicans and White evangelicals – there are substantially more people who say that there are situations where abortion should still be  legal  despite being morally wrong than there are who say that abortion should always be  illegal  when it is morally wrong.

A chart showing roughly half of Americans say there are situations where abortion is morally wrong, but should still be legal

Public views of what would change the number of abortions in the U.S.

Americans more likely to say additional support for women would reduce the number of abortions than say the same about stricter laws

Asked about the impact a number of policy changes would have on the number of abortions in the U.S., nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say “more support for women during pregnancy, such as financial assistance or employment protections” would reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. Six-in-ten say the same about expanding sex education and similar shares say more support for parents (58%), making it easier to place children for adoption in good homes (57%) and passing stricter abortion laws (57%) would have this effect. 

While about three-quarters of White evangelical Protestants (74%) say passing stricter abortion laws would reduce the number of abortions in the U.S., about half of religiously unaffiliated Americans (48%) hold this view. Similarly, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say this (67% vs. 49%, respectively). By contrast, while about seven-in-ten unaffiliated adults (69%) say expanding sex education would reduce the number of abortions in the U.S., only about half of White evangelicals (48%) say this. Democrats also are substantially more likely than Republicans to hold this view (70% vs. 50%). 

Democrats are somewhat more likely than Republicans to say support for parents – such as paid family leave or more child care options – would reduce the number of abortions in the country (64% vs. 53%, respectively), while Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say making adoption into good homes easier would reduce abortions (64% vs. 52%).

Majorities across both parties and other subgroups analyzed in this report say that more support for women during pregnancy would reduce the number of abortions in America.

A chart showing Republicans more likely than Democrats to say passing stricter abortion laws would reduce number of abortions in the United States

A majority of Americans say women should have more say in setting abortion policy in the U.S.

A chart showing seven-in-ten Democrats say women should have more say than men in setting abortion policy in the U.S.

More than half of U.S. adults (56%) say women should have more say than men when it comes to setting policies around abortion in this country – including 42% who say women should have “a lot” more say. About four-in-ten (39%) say men and women should have equal say in abortion policies, and 3% say men should have more say than women. 

Six-in-ten women and about half of men (51%) say that women should have more say on this policy issue. 

Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say women should have more say than men in setting abortion policy (70% vs. 41%). Similar shares of Protestants (48%) and Catholics (51%) say women should have more say than men on this issue, while the share of religiously unaffiliated Americans who say this is much higher (70%).

How do certain arguments about abortion resonate with Americans?

Seeking to gauge Americans’ reactions to several common arguments related to abortion, the survey presented respondents with six statements and asked them to rate how well each statement reflects their views on a five-point scale ranging from “extremely well” to “not at all well.” 

About half of U.S. adults say if legal abortions are too hard to get, women will seek out unsafe ones

The list included three statements sometimes cited by individuals wishing to protect a right to abortion: “The decision about whether to have an abortion should belong solely to the pregnant woman,” “If legal abortions are too hard to get, then women will seek out unsafe abortions from unlicensed providers,” and “If legal abortions are too hard to get, then it will be more difficult for women to get ahead in society.” The first two of these resonate with the greatest number of Americans, with about half (53%) saying each describes their views “extremely” or “very” well. In other words, among the statements presented in the survey, U.S. adults are most likely to say that women alone should decide whether to have an abortion, and that making abortion illegal will lead women into unsafe situations.

The three other statements are similar to arguments sometimes made by those who wish to restrict access to abortions: “Human life begins at conception, so a fetus is a person with rights,” “If legal abortions are too easy to get, then people won’t be as careful with sex and contraception,” and “If legal abortions are too easy to get, then some pregnant women will be pressured into having an abortion even when they don’t want to.” 

Fewer than half of Americans say each of these statements describes their views extremely or very well. Nearly four-in-ten endorse the notion that “human life begins at conception, so a fetus is a person with rights” (26% say this describes their views extremely well, 12% very well), while about a third say that “if legal abortions are too easy to get, then people won’t be as careful with sex and contraception” (20% extremely well, 15% very well).

When it comes to statements cited by proponents of abortion rights, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to identify with all three of these statements, as are religiously unaffiliated Americans compared with Catholics and Protestants. Women also are more likely than men to express these views – and especially more likely to say that decisions about abortion should fall solely to pregnant women and that restrictions on abortion will put women in unsafe situations. Younger adults under 30 are particularly likely to express the view that if legal abortions are too hard to get, then it will be difficult for women to get ahead in society.

A chart showing most Democrats say decisions about abortion should fall solely to pregnant women

In the case of the three statements sometimes cited by opponents of abortion, the patterns generally go in the opposite direction. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say each statement reflects their views “extremely” or “very” well, as are Protestants (especially White evangelical Protestants) and Catholics compared with the religiously unaffiliated. In addition, older Americans are more likely than young adults to say that human life begins at conception and that easy access to abortion encourages unsafe sex.

Gender differences on these questions, however, are muted. In fact, women are just as likely as men to say that human life begins at conception, so a fetus is a person with rights (39% and 38%, respectively).

A chart showing nearly three-quarters of White evangelicals say human life begins at conception

Analyzing certain statements together allows for an examination of the extent to which individuals can simultaneously hold two views that may seem to some as in conflict. For instance, overall, one-in-three U.S. adults say that  both  the statement “the decision about whether to have an abortion should belong solely to the pregnant woman” and the statement “human life begins at conception, so the fetus is a person with rights” reflect their own views at least somewhat well. This includes 12% of adults who say both statements reflect their views “extremely” or “very” well. 

Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to say both statements reflect their own views at least somewhat well (36% vs. 30%), although Republicans are much more likely to say  only  the statement about the fetus being a person with rights reflects their views at least somewhat well (39% vs. 9%) and Democrats are much more likely to say  only  the statement about the decision to have an abortion belonging solely to the pregnant woman reflects their views at least somewhat well (55% vs. 19%).

Additionally, those who take the stance that abortion should be legal in all cases with no exceptions are overwhelmingly likely (76%) to say only the statement about the decision belonging solely to the pregnant woman reflects their views extremely, very or somewhat well, while a nearly identical share (73%) of those who say abortion should be  illegal  in all cases with no exceptions say only the statement about human life beginning at conception reflects their views at least somewhat well.

A chart showing one-third of U.S. adults say both that abortion decision belongs solely to the pregnant woman, and that life begins at conception and fetuses have rights

In their own words: How Americans feel about abortion 

A chart showing Americans express a range of strong emotions when asked to describe feelings on abortion

When asked to describe whether they had any other additional views or feelings about abortion, adults shared a range of strong or complex views about the topic. In many cases, Americans reiterated their strong support – or opposition to – abortion in the U.S. Others reflected on how difficult or nuanced the issue was, offering emotional responses or personal experiences to one of two open-ended questions asked on the survey. 

One open-ended question asked respondents if they wanted to share any other views or feelings about abortion overall. The other open-ended question asked respondents about their feelings or views regarding abortion restrictions. The responses to both questions were similar. 

Overall, about three-in-ten adults offered a response to either of the open-ended questions. There was little difference in the likelihood to respond by party, religion or gender, though people who say they have given a “lot” of thought to the issue were more likely to respond than people who have not. 

Of those who did offer additional comments, about a third of respondents said something in support of legal abortion. By far the most common sentiment expressed was that the decision to have an abortion should be solely a personal decision, or a decision made jointly with a woman and her health care provider, with some saying simply that it “should be between a woman and her doctor.” Others made a more general point, such as one woman who said, “A woman’s body and health should not be subject to legislation.” 

About one-in-five of the people who responded to the question expressed disapproval of abortion – the most common reason being a belief that a fetus is a person or that abortion is murder. As one woman said, “It is my belief that life begins at conception and as much as is humanly possible, we as a society need to support, protect and defend each one of those little lives.” Others in this group pointed to the fact that they felt abortion was too often used as a form of birth control. For example, one man said, “Abortions are too easy to obtain these days. It seems more women are using it as a way of birth control.” 

About a quarter of respondents who opted to answer one of the open-ended questions said that their views about abortion were complex; many described having mixed feelings about the issue or otherwise expressed sympathy for both sides of the issue. One woman said, “I am personally opposed to abortion in most cases, but I think it would be detrimental to society to make it illegal. I was alive before the pill and before legal abortions. Many women died.” And one man said, “While I might feel abortion may be wrong in some cases, it is never my place as a man to tell a woman what to do with her body.” 

The remaining responses were either not related to the topic or were difficult to interpret.

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Table of contents, majority of public disapproves of supreme court’s decision to overturn roe v. wade, wide partisan gaps in abortion attitudes, but opinions in both parties are complicated, key facts about the abortion debate in america, about six-in-ten americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, fact sheet: public opinion on abortion, most popular.

About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

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What Is an Abortion?

Julie Lynn Marks

An abortion involves using surgery or taking medicines to end a pregnancy. It’s also sometimes referred to as termination of pregnancy, per  MedlinePlus .

According to  Planned Parenthood , about 1 in every 4 people who can get pregnant in the United States will have an abortion by the time they’re 45 years old.

Why Is an Abortion Performed?

The reasons for having an abortion vary, but according to the  Mayo Clinic , someone might choose this option if:

  • They didn’t intend to get pregnant ( Research shows half of people seeking abortion report using birth control in the month before they became pregnant.)
  • They no longer want to be pregnant
  • They have a medical condition that makes pregnancy life-threatening
  • The fetus has a serious medical condition
  • They require medical assistance to induce delivery of nonviable fetal tissue after miscarriage or stillbirth (While medical providers would not use the term “abortion” in these scenarios because the pregnancy has already ended, the medications and procedures are the same. However, ongoing abortion restrictions at the state level could prevent women from obtaining this medically necessary care.)

In a study published in the medical journal BMC Women’s Health , researchers analyzed a sample of 954 women from 30 abortion facilities across the United States. They found that women cited many reasons for choosing an abortion, including the following:

  • Not being financially prepared
  • Partner-related issues
  • The desire to focus on the children they already had
  • Concern that the pregnancy would interfere with future opportunities
  • Not being emotionally prepared
  • Health-related reasons
  • Believing the child deserved a better life
  • Not being independent or mature enough
  • Influences from family or friends

Most of the women studied reported multiple reasons for choosing to terminate their pregnancy. The authors of the paper concluded that a woman’s decision to seek an abortion is influenced by various factors, such as age, health, socioeconomic status, parity, and marital status.

Abortion Legal Barriers

On Jun 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision Roe v. Wade (PDF), which had protected the federal right to abortion for nearly 50 years. As a result, the ability to access abortion is now determined at the state level. State laws can change frequently, but the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports abortion rights, maintains a database where you can confirm the legal status of abortion in your state.

RELATED: How to Find Trustworthy Abortion, Emergency Contraception, and Birth Control Resources

What Are the Types of Abortion?

There are different ways to perform an abortion. Your healthcare provider might recommend a type based on your personal choices, how far along you are in your pregnancy, or other circumstances, notes  UCSF Health .

Medication Abortion

A medication abortion , sometimes referred to as a medical abortion, involves taking medications to end your pregnancy.

This type of abortion is typically only an option up until 11 weeks from your last menstrual period, per  Planned Parenthood . However, some insurance companies won’t cover a medication abortion after seven weeks of pregnancy, notes  UCSF .

A medication abortion is about 95 percent effective at helping someone completely pass a pregnancy without surgery.

The most common medications given for a medication abortion are mifepristone (Mifeprex, RU-486) and misoprostol (Cytotec) . Mifepristone blocks the action of the hormone progesterone , which is important for pregnancy. Misoprostol prompts the uterus to contract and empty.

A healthcare provider will give you these medicines at a health clinic. You may take them at the facility or at home, depending on your state laws and your provider’s policies.

You will need to see your provider at least two times: once before taking the medicines and once after you’ve completed the treatment to confirm that the abortion worked.

Medication abortions can take up to 24 hours to complete.

A medication abortion is different than emergency contraception , of which the most common is known as the “morning after pill.” Emergency contraception is used to prevent pregnancy, while a medication abortion is used to terminate a pregnancy.

Surgical Abortion

A surgical abortion, or an “in-clinic abortion,” is a procedure that’s done to remove the pregnancy tissue from a person’s womb (uterus), per  MedlinePlus .

According to  Planned Parenthood , the two types of surgical abortions are:

  • Suction Abortion (Vacuum Aspiration) With this technique, gentle suction is used to empty the uterus. A suction abortion can be performed until about 14 to 16 weeks after your last period. This is the most common type of in-clinic abortion.
  • Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) Abortion A D&E involves using suction and surgical instruments to empty a woman’s uterus. Doctors may recommend this type of procedure if it’s been 16 weeks or longer since your last period.

Most in-clinic abortion procedures take about 5 to 10 minutes.

Surgical abortions are usually very successful. According to Planned Parenthood, they work more than 99 out of every 100 times.

Abortion Later in Pregnancy

Abortions occurring at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy are extremely uncommon, per the  Kaiser Family Foundation , accounting for only about 1 percent of abortions in the United States. Abortions at this stage of pregnancy are sometimes called “late-term abortions,” although this is a nonmedical term that many healthcare providers take issue with.

What are the Benefits of an Abortion and Risks of Being Denied One?

A landmark report called “ The Turnaway Study ” conducted interviews with almost 1,000 women who were seeking abortions. Some were able to get an abortion, while the rest were turned away because they had surpassed their state’s gestational limit. By following up with these individuals multiple times over five years, the study authors were able to compare the physical, emotional, and social outcomes of receiving a wanted abortion versus being denied one.

For people who were able to receive an abortion, the benefits they experienced compared with those who were forced to carry their pregnancy to term included:

  • Better Health and Less Chronic Pain Women who were denied an abortion and gave birth experienced more life-threatening complications like eclampsia and postpartum hemorrhage. They also reported more chronic headaches or migraine , joint pain, and gestational hypertension compared with people who were able to get a wanted abortion.
  • Better Short-Term Mental Health Those who were denied an abortion reported increased anxiety and stress and decreased self-esteem soon after the procedure was denied. About six months to a year after receiving or being denied an abortion, all women reported similar levels of mental health and well-being.
  • Better Economic Security People who were denied an abortion were 4 times more likely to fall below the federal poverty level than those who were able to get an abortion. Women forced to carry a pregnancy to term were also 3 times as likely to be unemployed, and also reported more debt, lower credit scores, and more financial insecurity for multiple years after giving birth.
  • More Likely to Graduate With an Advanced Degree Women denied abortion had similar odds of graduating or dropping out of school compared with those who did get an abortion, but those who got one were more likely to graduate with an advanced degree.
  • Better Outcomes for Their Existing Children The already existing children of women forced to carry a pregnancy to term were over 3 times as likely to live in poverty, and less likely to achieve developmental milestones compared with the existing children of people who were able to get an abortion.

What Are the Complications and Risks of an Abortion?

Legal abortions are considered safe, with very few lasting risks. According to the  National Academy of Sciences , pregnant people are nearly 13 times more likely to die in childbirth than to die from receiving an abortion. Between 1988 and 2010, only 0.7 deaths occurred for every 100,000 abortions, versus 8.8 deaths out of every 100,000 births.

Childbirth is riskier for minorities as well. Black women are 3 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women in the United States, according to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , and elevated risks for Native Americans and Alaska Natives follow close behind.

Studies  show that early abortions without complications do not affect a woman’s future fertility . Additionally, having an abortion won’t cause pregnancy issues such as birth defects, miscarriage , premature birth, ectopic pregnancy , or infant death down the road, notes  Planned Parenthood .

The short-term complications you might experience will depend on the type of abortion you have.

Medication Abortion Risks

According to  Mayo Clinic , some short-term physical complications of a medication abortion include:

  • Heavy or prolonged bleeding
  • An incomplete or unsuccessful abortion (which means you may need to have a surgical abortion)

Between 3 and 5 percent of women will need to have a surgical abortion because of persistent or excessive bleeding, continued pregnancy, or their own preferences.

If abortion is illegal in your state, you could face prosecution for completing a medication abortion. Although so far instances of such prosecution have been rare, experts predict they will increase in a post- Roe environment, according to  NPR .

In the unlikely case that you have complications from medication abortion that require medical attention, you do not have to tell your healthcare provider you took abortion pills — there is no way for them to tell the difference between a spontaneous miscarraige and one induced with medication, according to the abortion nonprofit  Women Help Women .

Surgical Abortion Risks

Rare complications of a surgical abortion may include:

  • Very heavy bleeding
  • Pregnancy tissue left in your uterus
  • Injury to your cervix, uterus, or other organs
  • An allergic reaction to medications

Additionally, there’s a small chance the abortion won’t work, and your pregnancy doesn’t end. You might need another procedure if this happens, notes  Planned Parenthood .

How to Prepare for an Abortion

Before a medical or surgical abortion, your provider may perform a urine test, a physical exam, or a blood test . Additionally, you may need to have an ultrasound to confirm how far along you are in your pregnancy and to rule out ectopic pregnancy .

Your healthcare provider will explain how the medicines or procedure will work, the side effects, and the risks.

If you’re having a surgical abortion, you might need the following before your procedure, according to  UCSF Health :

  • Oral pain medicines, such as Vicodin , Valium , and ibuprofen
  • Medicines to soften your cervix, such as misoprostol
  • Dilating sticks that are placed in your cervix, such as laminaria or Dilapan
  • Antibiotics to help prevent infections
  • Sedation drugs

The medicines you require and when you receive them will depend on how far along you are in your pregnancy and the type of abortion you’re having, notes UCSF Health.

If you take Vicodin , Valium , or other sedation medicines, you’ll need to arrange for someone to take you home from the clinic.

Finding a Provider and Clinic

You should know that healthcare providers aren’t required to perform elective abortions, and different states have certain legal requirements, waiting periods, or age restrictions when it comes to abortions, if they’re legal at all. These laws might make it challenging to find a provider or clinic.

Planned Parenthood offers resources for finding clinics and health centers in your area.

Costs and Insurance Coverage

Planning for the cost of an abortion can be challenging for some people. While prices vary, an abortion in the first trimester can run up to $1,500, notes  Planned Parenthood . A second trimester abortion usually costs more .

Some insurance plans cover abortions, but others don’t. Check your policy before scheduling your appointment. If your procedure is not covered, you might be able to work out a self-payment option with the clinic.

Community health clinics are often a good option for low-cost care. The centers are funded by the federal government and are usually located in areas with fewer doctors. According to the  Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) , these federally qualified health centers in underserved areas must provide care on a sliding scale based on your ability to pay.

Additionally, your local Planned Parenthood health center may be able to provide you with other options or resources for financial assistance.

How Is an Abortion Performed?

The process will depend on the type of abortion you have.

An abortion feels different for everyone. Some women report intense pain, while others describe it as slight discomfort. Your doctors and nurses will try to make your abortion as comfortable as possible, notes  Planned Parenthood .

For a medication abortion, your provider will give you one tablet of mifepristone that you usually take in the clinic, according to  Mayo Clinic , although some states allow telehealth for first trimester medication abortions

Then, hours or days later, you’ll be instructed to take misoprostol, usually at home. Your provider may also give you antibiotics to prevent an infection.

About a week later, you’ll meet with your provider to make sure the abortion is complete.

Suction Abortion

If you’re having a suction abortion, according to  Planned Parenthood , a healthcare professional will first examine your uterus and use a speculum to see inside your vagina . Then, they will:

  • Inject numbing medication into your cervix
  • Stretch the opening of your cervix with dilating rods
  • Insert a thin tube into your uterus
  • Use a small suction device or machine to remove the pregnancy tissue out of your uterus

Additionally, the doctor may use a tool to remove any tissue that’s still left in your uterus or to confirm that your uterus is completely empty.

After the suction abortion is over, you’ll stay in a recovery area for about an hour or until you feel well enough to go home.

While the procedure itself only takes about 10 minutes, your appointment will be longer due to prep and recovery time.

D&E Abortion

You’ll probably be sedated for a D&E procedure.

First, your doctor will prepare your cervix with medicines that help open it. Dilator sticks (laminaria) are often given a few hours or a day before a D&E.

To begin the procedure, a healthcare provider will look at your uterus and examine inside your vagina with a speculum. Then, they will:

  • Inject a numbing medication into your cervix
  • Use surgical instruments along with a suction device to remove the pregnancy tissue from your uterus

The procedure typically takes about 10 to 20 minutes, but your appointment will be longer due to the prep and recovery time.

You’ll wait in a recovery room for up to an hour or until you feel well enough to leave.

How Long Does It Take to Recover From an Abortion?

Most people heal quickly after an abortion, but your recovery might depend on the type of abortion you had and how far along you were in your pregnancy.

Recovery After Medication Abortion

If you have a medication abortion, you should plan to rest on the day you take your second medicine. You might feel tired for a couple of days after this dose, notes  Planned Parenthood .

You can usually resume most normal tasks, such as going to work or driving, the next day. However, don’t perform any strenuous activities, such as heavy exercise, for several days.

You might bleed or spot sporadically for several weeks after your medication abortion.

Follow your provider’s instructions carefully. Let them know if you experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or a fever for more than 24 hours after taking misoprostol.

You can have sex as soon as you feel ready (but again, it's important to use contraception if you want to avoid pregnancy).

Your normal periods should resume four to eight weeks after the abortion, but this will depend on your birth control method .

Recovery After Surgical Abortion

The day after a surgical abortion, you can usually resume regular activities, such as driving and working, if you feel up to it. You can also have sex as soon as you feel well enough, though be sure to use reliable contraception if you wish to prevent pregnancy, notes Planned Parenthood.

You’ll probably experience some cramping or bleeding. Pain medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) , can help with the discomfort.

You might bleed or spot for several weeks, but some people don’t bleed at all. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you use pads, so you can keep track of how much you bleed.

You should get a normal period about four to eight weeks after your procedure, but this might vary if you use certain birth control methods .

Be sure to follow all your doctor’s instructions after your procedure. Call your provider right away if you:

  • Soak through two pads per hour for two hours
  • Have pain or cramps that don’t get better with medicine
  • Have a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher

Abortion Resources

If you’re considering an abortion, you’re not alone. Many resources are available to help you through the process. Here are some of Everyday Health’s favorites:

Abortion Finder

AbortionFinder.org features more than 750 health centers and offers a comprehensive directory of trusted and verified abortion service providers in the United States. You can also find information about how the laws in your state may affect your ability to get an abortion.

The Guttmacher Institute

The Guttmacher Institute is a nonprofit organization supporting abortion rights. It maintains an up-to-date database of the legality of abortion in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, in addition to other abortion information resources.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that delivers vital reproductive healthcare, sex education, and information to millions of people around the world. On their site, you can search for clinics in your area and even chat with a health educator who can answer any questions or concerns you have about your pregnancy options.

National Abortion Federation (NAF)

The mission of the NAF is to unite, represent, serve, and support abortion providers in delivering patient-centered, evidence-based care. Their toll-free hotline provides callers with abortion referrals and financial assistance services. You can also locate a provider in your area right on their website.

National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF)

The NNAF aims to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access. They help connect people seeking an abortion with organizations that can assist with the costs of having one.

Resources to Avoid: Crisis Pregnancy Centers

In every state there are clinics sometimes called “crisis pregnancy centers” or “pregnancy resource centers” that present themselves as abortion clinics or healthcare facilities, and that specifically target people looking for information on abortion, according to  Planned Parenthood .

These clinics do not present the full range of options when it comes to making a decision about an unwanted pregnancy. Oftentimes, they even intentionally mislead people seeking information, for example by telling them the lie that abortion can cause infertility. Resources like the Crisis Pregnancy Center Map and Expose Fake Clinics have searchable lists of predatory crisis pregnancy centers that you can use to make sure the clinic you select is reputable.

Next Steps and Recommendations

Most women can start on hormonal or nonhormonal birth control immediately after having an abortion.

Some options include:

  • The pill (available in a variety of formulations)
  • A progesterone implant (Nexplanon)
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs), with or without hormones
  • A progesterone shot (Depo-Provera)

In cases of surgical abortion, providers can insert an IUD in your uterus at the same time you undergo the procedure.

If you’re interested in a birth control method, your provider can walk you through your options.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

Everyday Health follows strict sourcing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content, outlined in our editorial policy . We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions.

  • Abortion. MedlinePlus . April 22, 2021.
  • What Facts About Abortion Do I Need to Know? Planned Parenthood .
  • Medical Abortion. Mayo Clinic . May 14, 2020.
  • Jones RK. Reported Contraceptive Use in the Month of Becoming Pregnant Among U.S. Abortion Patients in 2000 and 2014. Contraception . April 2018.
  • Rubin R. How Abortion Bans Could Affect Care for Miscarriage and Infertility. JAMA . June 28, 2022.
  • Management of Stillbirth. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists . March 2020.
  • Biggs MA, Gould H, Foster DG. Understanding Why Women Seek Abortions in the US. BMC Women’s Health . July 5, 2013.
  • Interactive Map: US Abortion Policies and Access After Roe. Guttmacher Institute .
  • Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, Et al. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Et al. Supreme Court of the United States .
  • Medical Versus Surgical Abortion. UCSF Health .
  • The Abortion Pill. Planned Parenthood .
  • Abortion — Surgical. MedlinePlus . October 8. 2021.
  • In-Clinic Abortion. Planned Parenthood .
  • Medical Abortion. UCSF Health .
  • How Safe Is an In-Clinic Abortion? Planned Parenthood .
  • Surgical Abortion (Second Trimester). UCSF Health .
  • Surgical Abortion (First Trimester). UCSF Health .
  • Abortions Later in Pregnancy. Kaiser Family Foundation . December 5, 2019.
  • The Turnaway Study. Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANRISH) .
  • The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States. National Academies of Science . 2018.
  • Working Together to Reduce Black Maternal Mortality. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . April 6, 2022.
  • Losing a Pregnancy Could Land You in Jail in Post-Roe America. NPR . July 3, 2022.
  • Will a Doctor Be Able to Tell if You've Taken Abortion Pills? Women Help Women . Sept. 23, 2019.
  • How Do I Get an In-Clinic Abortion? Planned Parenthood .
  • How Much Does an Abortion Cost? Planned Parenthood .
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers. Health Resources and Services Administration . May 2018.
  • Find a Health Center. Planned Parenthood .
  • What Happens During an In-Clinic Abortion? Planned Parenthood .
  • What Can I Expect After Having an In-Clinic Abortion? Planned Parenthood .
  • What Can I Expect After I Take the Abortion Pill? Planned Parenthood .

An advertisement for Chichester's Pennyroyal abortifacient pills

A Brief History of Abortion in the U.S.

Abortion wasn’t always a moral, political, and legal tinderbox. What changed?

A bortion laws have never been more contentious in the U.S. Yet for the first century of the country’s existence—and most of human history before that—abortion was a relatively uncontroversial fact of life.

“Abortion has existed for pretty much as long as human beings have existed,” says Joanne Rosen, JD, MA , a senior lecturer in Health Policy and Management who studies the impact of law and policy on access to abortion.

Until the mid-19th century, the U.S. attitude toward abortion was much the same as it had often been elsewhere throughout history: It was a quiet reality, legal until “quickening” (when fetal motion could be felt by the mother). In the eyes of the law, the fetus wasn’t a “separate distinct entity until then,” but rather an extension of the mother, Rosen explains.

What changed?

America’s first anti-abortion movement wasn’t driven primarily by moral or religious concerns like it is today. Instead, abortion’s first major foe in the U.S. was physicians on a mission to regulate medicine.

Until this point, abortion services had been “women’s work.” Most providers were midwives, many of whom made a good living selling abortifacient plants. They relied on methods passed down through generations, from herbal abortifacients and pessaries—a tampon-like device soaked in a solution to induce abortion—to catheter abortions that irritate the womb and force a miscarriage, to a minor surgical procedure called dilation and curettage (D&C), which remains one of the most common methods of terminating an early pregnancy.

The cottage abortion industry caught the attention of the fledgling American Medical Association, which was established in 1847 and, at the time, excluded women and Black people from membership. The AMA was keen to be taken seriously as a gatekeeper of the medical profession, and abortion services made midwives and other irregular practitioners—so-called quacks—an easy target. Their rhetoric was strategic, says Mary Fissell, PhD , the J. Mario Molina professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. “You have to link those midwives to providing abortion as a way of kind of getting them out of business,” Fissell says. “So organized medicine very much takes the anti-abortion position and stays with that for some time.”

Early 19th century and before

Abortion is legal in the U.S. until “quickening”

AMA campaigns to end abortion

At least 40 anti-abortion statutes are enacted in the U.S.

Comstock Act makes it illegal to sell or mail contraceptives or abortifacients

Late 19th century

OB-GYN emerges as a specialty

Griswold v. Connecticut decision finds that the Constitution guarantees a right to privacy, specifically in prescribing contraceptives, paving the way for Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade enshrines abortion as a constitutional right

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey protects a woman's right to have an abortion prior to  fetal viability

Four states pass trigger laws making it a felony to perform, procure, or prescribe an abortion if Roe is ever overturned

Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey overturned; 13 states ban abortion by October 2022

In 1857, the AMA took aim at unregulated abortion providers with a letter-writing campaign pushing state lawmakers to ban the practice. To make their case, they asserted that there was a medical consensus that life begins at conception, rather than at quickening.

The campaign succeeded. At least 40 anti-abortion laws went on the books between 1860 and 1880.

And yet some doctors continued to perform abortions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By then, abortion was illegal in almost all states and territories, but during the Depression era, “doctors could see why women wouldn’t want a child,” and many would perform them anyway, Fissell says. In the 1920s and through the 1930s, many cities had physicians who specialized in abortions, and other doctors would refer patients to them “off book.”

That leniency faded with the end of World War II. “All across America, it’s very much about gender roles, and women are supposed to be in the home, having babies,” Fissell says. This shift in the 1940s and ’50s meant that more doctors were prosecuted for performing abortions, which drove the practice underground and into less skilled hands. In the 1950s and 1960s, up to 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed each year in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute . In 1965, 17% of reported deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth were associated with illegal abortion.

A rubella outbreak from 1963–1965 moved the dial again, back toward more liberal abortion laws. Catching rubella during pregnancy could cause severe birth defects, leading medical authorities to endorse therapeutic abortions . But these safe, legal abortions remained largely the preserve of the privileged. “Women who are well-to-do have always managed to get abortions, almost always without a penalty,” says Fissell. “But God help her if she was a single, Black, working-class woman.”

Women who could afford it brought their cases to court to fight for access to hospital abortions. Other women gained approval for abortions with proof from a physician that carrying the pregnancy would endanger her life or her physical or mental health. These cases set off a wave of abortion reform bills in state legislatures that helped set the stage for Roe v. Wade . By the time Roe was decided in 1973, legal abortions were already available in 17 states—and not just to save a woman’s life.

But raising the issue to the level of the Supreme Court and enshrining abortion rights for all Americans also galvanized opposition to it and mobilized anti-abortion groups. “ Roe was under attack virtually from the moment it was decided,” says Rosen.  

In 1992 another Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey posed the most significant existential threat to Roe . Rosen calls it “the case that launched a thousand abortion regulations,” upholding Roe but giving states far greater scope to regulate abortion prior to fetal viability. However, defining that nebulous milestone a became a flashpoint for debate as medical advancements saw babies survive earlier and earlier outside the womb. Sonograms became routine around the same time, making fetal life easier to grasp and “putting wind in the sails of the ‘pro-life’ movement,” Rosen says. Then in June, the Supreme Court overturned both Roe and Casey .

For many Americans, that meant the return to the conundrum that led Norma McCorvey—a.k.a. Jane Roe—to the Supreme Court in 1971: being poor and pregnant, and seeking an abortion in a state that had banned them in all but the narrowest of circumstances.

The history of abortion in the U.S. suggests the tides will turn again. “We often see periods of toleration followed by periods of repression,” says Fissell. The current moment is unequivocally marked by the latter. What remains to be seen is how long it will last.

From Public Health On Call Podcast

Important conclusions from abortion studies

  • PMID: 12287992

In general, it can be concluded that the initiative on the determinants and consequences of induced abortion has shown some important patterns. For example, induced abortion is not restricted to adolescents but occurs also within marriage to limit family size. Induced abortion is prevalent both where family planning services are available and contraceptive prevalence is high as well as where family planning is not common, but for different reasons. In the former, motivation to limit family size is high and women would use any option if contraception fails or an unwanted pregnancy occurs. In the latter case, induced abortion forms part of a mix of incipient fertility regulation alternatives, most of which are traditional and of little effectiveness but including some use or improper use of modern methods. Few abortion seekers, and among them even fewer adolescents, were using a modern contraceptive at the time the pregnancy started. High use of traditional methods in some countries leads to abortion as women/couples fail to follow proper instructions with regards to the safe period. Unsafe clandestine abortions are more likely to be sought by poorer women and by adolescents. The findings of this research are increasingly being used to question the legal status of abortion in countries where the law is restrictive, or to strengthen family planning efforts in order to reduce abortion incidence.

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Demography*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Prevalence*
  • Research Design
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Ross Douthat

The Case Against Abortion

abortion essay introduction brainly

By Ross Douthat

Opinion Columnist

A striking thing about the American abortion debate is how little abortion itself is actually debated. The sensitivity and intimacy of the issue, the mixed feelings of so many Americans, mean that most politicians and even many pundits really don’t like to talk about it.

The mental habits of polarization, the assumption that the other side is always acting with hidden motives or in bad faith, mean that accusations of hypocrisy or simple evil are more commonplace than direct engagement with the pro-choice or pro-life argument.

And the Supreme Court’s outsize role in abortion policy means that the most politically important arguments are carried on by lawyers arguing constitutional theory, at one remove from the real heart of the debate.

But with the court set this week to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, it seems worth letting the lawyers handle the meta-arguments and writing about the thing itself. So this essay will offer no political or constitutional analysis. It will simply try to state the pro-life case.

At the core of our legal system, you will find a promise that human beings should be protected from lethal violence. That promise is made in different ways by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; it’s there in English common law, the Ten Commandments and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We dispute how the promise should be enforced, what penalties should be involved if it is broken and what crimes might deprive someone of the right to life. But the existence of the basic right, and a fundamental duty not to kill, is pretty close to bedrock.

There is no way to seriously deny that abortion is a form of killing. At a less advanced stage of scientific understanding, it was possible to believe that the embryo or fetus was somehow inert or vegetative until so-called quickening, months into pregnancy. But we now know the embryo is not merely a cell with potential, like a sperm or ovum, or a constituent part of human tissue, like a skin cell. Rather, a distinct human organism comes into existence at conception, and every stage of your biological life, from infancy and childhood to middle age and beyond, is part of a single continuous process that began when you were just a zygote.

We know from embryology, in other words, not Scripture or philosophy, that abortion kills a unique member of the species Homo sapiens, an act that in almost every other context is forbidden by the law.

This means that the affirmative case for abortion rights is inherently exceptionalist, demanding a suspension of a principle that prevails in practically every other case. This does not automatically tell against it; exceptions as well as rules are part of law. But it means that there is a burden of proof on the pro-choice side to explain why in this case taking another human life is acceptable, indeed a protected right itself.

One way to clear this threshold would be to identify some quality that makes the unborn different in kind from other forms of human life — adult, infant, geriatric. You need an argument that acknowledges that the embryo is a distinct human organism but draws a credible distinction between human organisms and human persons , between the unborn lives you’ve excluded from the law’s protection and the rest of the human race.

In this kind of pro-choice argument and theory, personhood is often associated with some property that’s acquired well after conception: cognition, reason, self-awareness, the capacity to survive outside the womb. And a version of this idea, that human life is there in utero but human personhood develops later, fits intuitively with how many people react to a photo of an extremely early embryo ( It doesn’t look human, does it? ) — though less so to a second-trimester fetus, where the physical resemblance to a newborn is more palpable.

But the problem with this position is that it’s hard to identify exactly what property is supposed to do the work of excluding the unborn from the ranks of humans whom it is wrong to kill. If full personhood is somehow rooted in reasoning capacity or self-consciousness, then all manner of adult human beings lack it or lose it at some point or another in their lives. If the capacity for survival and self-direction is essential, then every infant would lack personhood — to say nothing of the premature babies who are unviable without extreme medical interventions but regarded, rightly, as no less human for all that.

At its most rigorous, the organism-but-not-person argument seeks to identify some stage of neurological development that supposedly marks personhood’s arrival — a transition equivalent in reverse to brain death at the end of life. But even setting aside the practical difficulties involved in identifying this point, we draw a legal line at brain death because it’s understood to be irreversible, the moment at which the human organism’s healthy function can never be restored. This is obviously not the case for an embryo on the cusp of higher brain functioning — and if you knew that a brain-dead but otherwise physically healthy person would spontaneously regain consciousness in two weeks, everyone would understand that the caregivers had an obligation to let those processes play out.

Or almost everyone, I should say. There are true rigorists who follow the logic of fetal nonpersonhood toward repugnant conclusions — for instance, that we ought to permit the euthanizing of severely disabled newborns, as the philosopher Peter Singer has argued. This is why abortion opponents have warned of a slippery slope from abortion to infanticide and involuntary euthanasia; as pure logic, the position that unborn human beings aren’t human persons can really tend that way.

But to their credit, only a small minority of abortion-rights supporters are willing to be so ruthlessly consistent. Instead, most people on the pro-choice side are content to leave their rules of personhood a little hazy, and combine them with the second potent argument for abortion rights: namely, that regardless of the precise moral status of unborn human organisms, they cannot enjoy a legal right to life because that would strip away too many rights from women.

A world without legal abortion, in this view, effectively consigns women to second-class citizenship — their ambitions limited, their privacy compromised, their bodies conscripted, their claims to full equality a lie. These kind of arguments often imply that birth is the most relevant milestone for defining legal personhood — not because of anything that happens to the child but because it’s the moment when its life ceases to impinge so dramatically on its mother.

There is a powerful case for some kind of feminism embedded in these claims. The question is whether that case requires abortion itself.

Certain goods that should be common to men and women cannot be achieved, it’s true, if the law simply declares the sexes equal without giving weight to the disproportionate burdens that pregnancy imposes on women. Justice requires redistributing those burdens, through means both traditional and modern — holding men legally and financially responsible for all the children that they father and providing stronger financial and social support for motherhood at every stage.

But does this kind of justice for women require legal indifference to the claims of the unborn? Is it really necessary to found equality for one group of human beings on legal violence toward another, entirely voiceless group?

We have a certain amount of practical evidence that suggests the answer is no. Consider, for instance, that between the early 1980s and the later 2010s the abortion rate in the United States fell by more than half . The reasons for this decline are disputed, but it seems reasonable to assume that it reflects a mix of cultural change, increased contraception use and the effects of anti-abortion legal strategies, which have made abortion somewhat less available in many states, as pro-choice advocates often lament.

If there were an integral and unavoidable relationship between abortion and female equality, you would expect these declines — fewer abortions, diminished abortion access — to track with a general female retreat from education and the workplace. But no such thing has happened: Whether measured by educational attainment, managerial and professional positions, breadwinner status or even political office holding, the status of women has risen in the same America where the pro-life movement has (modestly) gained ground.

Of course, it’s always possible that female advancement would have been even more rapid, the equality of the sexes more fully and perfectly established, if the pro-life movement did not exist. Certainly in the individual female life trajectory, having an abortion rather than a baby can offer economic and educational advantages.

On a collective level, though, it’s also possible that the default to abortion as the solution to an unplanned pregnancy actually discourages other adaptations that would make American life friendlier to women. As Erika Bachiochi wrote recently in National Review , if our society assumes that “abortion is what enables women to participate in the workplace,” then corporations may prefer the abortion default to more substantial accommodations like flexible work schedules and better pay for part-time jobs — relying on the logic of abortion rights, in other words, as a reason not to adapt to the realities of childbearing and motherhood.

At the very least, I think an honest look at the patterns of the past four decades reveals a multitude of different ways to offer women greater opportunities, a multitude of paths to equality and dignity — a multitude of ways to be a feminist, in other words, that do not require yoking its idealistic vision to hundreds of thousands of acts of violence every year.

It’s also true, though, that nothing in all that multitude of policies will lift the irreducible burden of childbearing, the biological realities that simply cannot be redistributed to fathers, governments or adoptive parents. And here, too, a portion of the pro-choice argument is correct: The unique nature of pregnancy means that there has to be some limit on what state or society asks of women and some zone of privacy where the legal system fears to tread.

This is one reason the wisest anti-abortion legislation — and yes, pro-life legislation is not always wise — criminalizes the provision of abortion by third parties, rather than prosecuting the women who seek one. It’s why anti-abortion laws are rightly deemed invasive and abusive when they lead to the investigation of suspicious-seeming miscarriages. It’s why the general principle of legal protection for human life in utero may or must understandably give way in extreme cases, extreme burdens: the conception by rape, the life-threatening pregnancy.

At the same time, though, the pro-choice stress on the burden of the ordinary pregnancy can become detached from the way that actual human beings experience the world. In a famous thought experiment, the philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson once analogized an unplanned pregnancy to waking up with a famous violinist hooked up to your body, who will die if he’s disconnected before nine months have passed. It’s a vivid science-fiction image but one that only distantly resembles the actual thing that it describes — a new life that usually exists because of a freely chosen sexual encounter, a reproductive experience that if material circumstances were changed might be desired and celebrated, a “disconnection” of the new life that cannot happen without lethal violence and a victim who is not some adult stranger but the woman’s child.

One can accept pro-choice logic, then, insofar as it demands a sphere of female privacy and warns constantly against the potential for abuse, without following that logic all the way to a general right to abort an unborn human life. Indeed, this is how most people approach similar arguments in other contexts. In the name of privacy and civil liberties we impose limits on how the justice system polices and imprisons, and we may celebrate activists who try to curb that system’s manifest abuses. But we don’t (with, yes, some anarchist exceptions) believe that we should remove all legal protections for people’s property or lives.

That removal of protection would be unjust no matter what its consequences, but in reality we know that those consequences would include more crime, more violence and more death. And the anti-abortion side can give the same answer when it’s asked why we can’t be content with doing all the other things that may reduce abortion rates and leaving legal protection out of it: Because while legal restrictions aren’t sufficient to end abortion, there really are a lot of unborn human lives they might protect.

Consider that when the State of Texas put into effect this year a ban on most abortions after about six weeks, the state’s abortions immediately fell by half. I think the Texas law, which tries to evade the requirements of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey by using private lawsuits for enforcement, is vulnerable to obvious critiques and liable to be abused. It’s not a model I would ever cite for pro-life legislation.

But that immediate effect, that sharp drop in abortions, is why the pro-life movement makes legal protection its paramount goal.

According to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, who surveyed the facilities that provide about 93 percent of all abortions in the state, there were 2,149 fewer legal abortions in Texas in the month the law went into effect than in the same month in 2020.

About half that number may end up still taking place, some estimates suggest, many of them in other states. But that still means that in a matter of months, more than a thousand human beings will exist as legal persons, rights-bearing Texans — despite still being helpless, unreasoning and utterly dependent — who would not have existed had this law not given them protection.

But, in fact, they exist already. They existed, at our mercy, all along.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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Ross Douthat has been an Opinion columnist for The Times since 2009. He is the author of several books, most recently, “The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery.” @ DouthatNYT • Facebook

National Academies Press: OpenBook

The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States (2018)

Chapter: 5 conclusions, 5 conclusions.

This report provides a comprehensive review of the state of the science on the safety and quality of abortion services in the United States. The committee was charged with answering eight specific research questions. This chapter presents the committee’s conclusions by responding individually to each question. The research findings that are the basis for these conclusions are presented in the previous chapters. The committee was also asked to offer recommendations regarding the eight questions. However, the committee decided that its conclusions regarding the safety and quality of U.S. abortion care responded comprehensively to the scope of this study. Therefore, the committee does not offer recommendations for specific actions to be taken by policy makers, health care providers, and others.

1. What types of legal abortion services are available in the United States? What is the evidence regarding which services are appropriate under different clinical circumstances (e.g., based on patient medical conditions such as previous cesarean section, obesity, gestational age)?

Four legal abortion methods—medication, 1 aspiration, dilation and evacuation (D&E), and induction—are used in the United States. Length of gestation—measured as the amount of time since the first day of the last


1 The terms “medication abortion” and “medical abortion” are used interchangeably in the literature. This report uses “medication abortion” to describe the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved prescription drug regimen used up to 10 weeks’ gestation.

menstrual period—is the primary factor in deciding what abortion procedure is the most appropriate. Both medication and aspiration abortions are used up to 10 weeks’ gestation. Aspiration procedures may be used up to 14 to 16 weeks’ gestation.

Mifepristone, sold under the brand name Mifeprex, is the only medication specifically approved by the FDA for use in medication abortion. The drug’s distribution has been restricted under the requirements of the FDA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy program since 2011—it may be dispensed only to patients in clinics, hospitals, or medical offices under the supervision of a certified prescriber. To become a certified prescriber, eligible clinicians must register with the drug’s distributor, Danco Laboratories, and meet certain requirements. Retail pharmacies are prohibited from distributing the drug.

When abortion by aspiration is no longer feasible, D&E and induction methods are used. D&E is the superior method; in comparison, inductions are more painful for women, take significantly more time, and are more costly. However, D&Es are not always available to women. The procedure is illegal in Mississippi 2 and West Virginia 3 (both states allow exceptions in cases of life endangerment or severe physical health risk to the woman). Elsewhere, access to the procedure is limited because many obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs) and other physicians lack the requisite training to perform D&Es. Physicians’ access to D&E training is very limited or nonexistent in many areas of the country.

Few women are medically ineligible for abortion. There are, however, specific contraindications to using mifepristone for a medication abortion or induction. The drug should not be used for women with confirmed or suspected ectopic pregnancy or undiagnosed adnexal mass; an intrauterine device in place; chronic adrenal failure; concurrent long-term systemic corticosteroid therapy; hemorrhagic disorders or concurrent anticoagulant therapy; allergy to mifepristone, misoprostol, or other prostaglandins; or inherited porphyrias.

Obesity is not a risk factor for women who undergo medication or aspiration abortions (including with the use of moderate intravenous sedation). Research on the association between obesity and complications during a D&E abortion is less certain—particularly for women with Class III obesity (body mass index ≥40) after 14 weeks’ gestation.

A history of a prior cesarean delivery is not a risk factor for women undergoing medication or aspiration abortions, but it may be associated

2 Mississippi Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, Mississippi HB 519, Reg. Sess. 2015–2016 (2016).

3 Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, West Virginia SB 10, Reg. Sess. 2015–2016 (2016).

with an increased risk of complications during D&E abortions, particularly for women with multiple cesarean deliveries. Because induction abortions are so rare, it is difficult to determine definitively whether a prior cesarean delivery increases the risk of complications. The available research suggests no association.

2. What is the evidence on the physical and mental health risks of these different abortion interventions?

Abortion has been investigated for its potential long-term effects on future childbearing and pregnancy outcomes, risk of breast cancer, mental health disorders, and premature death. The committee found that much of the published literature on these topics does not meet scientific standards for rigorous, unbiased research. Reliable research uses documented records of a prior abortion, analyzes comparable study and control groups, and controls for confounding variables shown to affect the outcome of interest.

Physical health effects The committee identified high-quality research on numerous outcomes of interest and concludes that having an abortion does not increase a woman’s risk of secondary infertility, pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders, abnormal placentation (after a D&E abortion), preterm birth, or breast cancer. Although rare, the risk of very preterm birth (<28 weeks’ gestation) in a woman’s first birth was found to be associated with having two or more prior aspiration abortions compared with first births among women with no abortion history; the risk appears to be associated with the number of prior abortions. Preterm birth is associated with pregnancy spacing after an abortion: it is more likely if the interval between abortion and conception is less than 6 months (this is also true of pregnancy spacing in general). The committee did not find well-designed research on abortion’s association with future ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or stillbirth, or long-term mortality. Findings on hemorrhage during a subsequent pregnancy are inconclusive.

Mental health effects The committee identified a wide array of research on whether abortion increases women’s risk of depression, anxiety, and/or posttraumatic stress disorder and concludes that having an abortion does not increase a woman’s risk of these mental health disorders.

3. What is the evidence on the safety and quality of medical and surgical abortion care?

Safety The clinical evidence clearly shows that legal abortions in the United States—whether by medication, aspiration, D&E, or induction—are

safe and effective. Serious complications are rare. But the risk of a serious complication increases with weeks’ gestation. As the number of weeks increases, the invasiveness of the required procedure and the need for deeper levels of sedation also increase.

Quality Health care quality is a multidimensional concept. Six attributes of health care quality—safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency, and equity—were central to the committee’s review of the quality of abortion care. Table 5-1 details the committee’s conclusions regarding each of these quality attributes. Overall, the committee concludes that the quality of abortion care depends to a great extent on where women live. In many parts of the country, state regulations have created barriers to optimizing each dimension of quality care. The quality of care is optimal when the care is based on current evidence and when trained clinicians are available to provide abortion services.

4. What is the evidence on the minimum characteristics of clinical facilities necessary to effectively and safely provide the different types of abortion interventions?

Most abortions can be provided safely in office-based settings. No special equipment or emergency arrangements are required for medication abortions. For other abortion methods, the minimum facility characteristics depend on the level of sedation that is used. Aspiration abortions are performed safely in office and clinic settings. If moderate sedation is used, the facility should have emergency resuscitation equipment and an emergency transfer plan, as well as equipment to monitor oxygen saturation, heart rate, and blood pressure. For D&Es that involve deep sedation or general anesthesia, the facility should be similarly equipped and also have equipment to provide general anesthesia and monitor ventilation.

Women with severe systemic disease require special measures if they desire or need deep sedation or general anesthesia. These women require further clinical assessment and should have their abortion in an accredited ambulatory surgery center or hospital.

5. What is the evidence on what clinical skills are necessary for health care providers to safely perform the various components of abortion care, including pregnancy determination, counseling, gestational age assessment, medication dispensing, procedure performance, patient monitoring, and follow-up assessment and care?

Required skills All abortion procedures require competent providers skilled in patient preparation (education, counseling, and informed consent);

TABLE 5-1 Does Abortion Care in the United States Meet the Six Attributes of Quality Health Care?

a These attributes of quality health care were first proposed by the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Quality of Health Care in America in the 2001 report Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century.

b Elsewhere in this report, effectiveness refers to the successful completion of the abortion without the need for a follow-up aspiration.

clinical assessment (confirming intrauterine pregnancy, determining gestation, taking a relevant medical history, and physical examination); pain management; identification and management of expected side effects and serious complications; and contraceptive counseling and provision. To provide medication abortions, the clinician should be skilled in all these areas. To provide aspiration abortions, the clinician should also be skilled in the technical aspects of an aspiration procedure. To provide D&E abortions, the clinician needs the relevant surgical expertise and sufficient caseload to maintain the requisite surgical skills. To provide induction abortions, the clinician requires the skills needed for managing labor and delivery.

Clinicians that have the necessary competencies Both trained physicians (OB/GYNs, family medicine physicians, and other physicians) and advanced practice clinicians (APCs) (physician assistants, certified nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners) can provide medication and aspiration abortions safely and effectively. OB/GYNs, family medicine physicians, and other physicians with appropriate training and experience can perform D&E abortions. Induction abortions can be provided by clinicians (OB/GYNs,

family medicine physicians, and certified nurse-midwives) with training in managing labor and delivery.

The extensive body of research documenting the safety of abortion care in the United States reflects the outcomes of abortions provided by thousands of individual clinicians. The use of sedation and anesthesia may require special expertise. If moderate sedation is used, it is essential to have a nurse or other qualified clinical staff—in addition to the person performing the abortion—available to monitor the patient, as is the case for any other medical procedure. Deep sedation and general anesthesia require the expertise of an anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist to ensure patient safety.

6. What safeguards are necessary to manage medical emergencies arising from abortion interventions?

The key safeguards—for abortions and all outpatient procedures—are whether the facility has the appropriate equipment, personnel, and emergency transfer plan to address any complications that might occur. No special equipment or emergency arrangements are required for medication abortions; however, clinics should provide a 24-hour clinician-staffed telephone line and have a plan to provide emergency care to patients after hours. If moderate sedation is used during an aspiration abortion, the facility should have emergency resuscitation equipment and an emergency transfer plan, as well as equipment to monitor oxygen saturation, heart rate, and blood pressure. D&Es that involve deep sedation or general anesthesia should be provided in similarly equipped facilities that also have equipment to monitor ventilation.

The committee found no evidence indicating that clinicians that perform abortions require hospital privileges to ensure a safe outcome for the patient. Providers should, however, be able to provide or arrange for patient access or transfer to medical facilities equipped to provide blood transfusions, surgical intervention, and resuscitation, if necessary.

7. What is the evidence on the safe provision of pain management for abortion care?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are recommended to reduce the discomfort of pain and cramping during a medication abortion. Some women still report high levels of pain, and researchers are exploring new ways to provide prophylactic pain management for medication abortion. The pharmaceutical options for pain management during aspiration, D&E, and induction abortions range from local anesthesia, to minimal sedation/anxiolysis, to moderate sedation/analgesia, to deep sedation/

analgesia, to general anesthesia. Along this continuum, the physiological effects of sedation have increasing clinical implications and, depending on the depth of sedation, may require special equipment and personnel to ensure the patient’s safety. The greatest risk of using sedative agents is respiratory depression. The vast majority of abortion patients are healthy and medically eligible for all levels of sedation in office-based settings. As noted above (see Questions 4 and 6), if sedation is used, the facility should be appropriately equipped and staffed.

8. What are the research gaps associated with the provision of safe, high-quality care from pre- to postabortion?

The committee’s overarching task was to assess the safety and quality of abortion care in the United States. As noted in the introduction to this chapter, the committee decided that its findings and conclusions fully respond to this charge. The committee concludes that legal abortions are safe and effective. Safety and quality are optimized when the abortion is performed as early in pregnancy as possible. Quality requires that care be respectful of individual patient preferences, needs, and values so that patient values guide all clinical decisions.

The committee did not identify gaps in research that raise concerns about these conclusions and does not offer recommendations for specific actions to be taken by policy makers, health care providers, and others.

The following are the committee’s observations about questions that merit further investigation.

Limitation of Mifepristone distribution As noted above, mifepristone, sold under the brand name Mifeprex, is the only medication approved by the FDA for use in medication abortion. Extensive clinical research has demonstrated its safety and effectiveness using the FDA-recommended regimen. Furthermore, few women have contraindications to medication abortion. Nevertheless, as noted earlier, the FDA REMS restricts the distribution of mifepristone. Research is needed on how the limited distribution of mifepristone under the REMS process impacts dimensions of quality, including timeliness, patient-centeredness, and equity. In addition, little is known about pharmacist and patient perspectives on pharmacy dispensing of mifepristone and the potential for direct-to-patient models through telemedicine.

Pain management There is insufficient evidence to identify the optimal approach to minimizing the pain women experience during an aspiration procedure without sedation. Paracervical blocks are effective in decreasing procedural pain, but the administration of the block itself is painful, and

even with the block, women report experiencing moderate to significant pain. More research is needed to learn how best to reduce the pain women experience during abortion procedures.

Research on prophylactic pain management for women undergoing medication abortions is also needed. Although NSAIDs reduce the pain of cramping, women still report high levels of pain.

Availability of providers APCs can provide medication and aspiration abortions safely and effectively, but the committee did not find research assessing whether APCs can also be trained to perform D&Es.

Addressing the needs of women of lower income Women who have abortions are disproportionately poor and at risk for interpersonal and other types of violence. Yet little is known about the extent to which they receive needed social and psychological supports when seeking abortion care or how best to meet those needs. More research is needed to assess the need for support services and to define best clinical practice for providing those services.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure that has been provided to millions of American women. Since the Institute of Medicine first reviewed the health implications of national legalized abortion in 1975, there has been a plethora of related scientific research, including well-designed randomized clinical trials, systematic reviews, and epidemiological studies examining abortion care. This research has focused on examining the relative safety of abortion methods and the appropriateness of methods for different clinical circumstances. With this growing body of research, earlier abortion methods have been refined, discontinued, and new approaches have been developed.

The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States offers a comprehensive review of the current state of the science related to the provision of safe, high-quality abortion services in the United States. This report considers 8 research questions and presents conclusions, including gaps in research.

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    Human Rights Watch believes that reproductive rights are human rights, including the right to access to abortion. States have the obligation to provide women, girls, and other pregnant people with ...

  11. 2. Social and moral considerations on abortion

    Social and moral considerations on abortion. Relatively few Americans view the morality of abortion in stark terms: Overall, just 7% of all U.S. adults say abortion is morally acceptable in all cases, and 13% say it is morally wrong in all cases. A third say that abortion is morally wrong in most cases, while about a quarter (24%) say it is ...

  12. What Is Abortion? Purpose, Risks, Preparation, Recovery

    Surgical Abortion. A surgical abortion, or an "in-clinic abortion," is a procedure that's done to remove the pregnancy tissue from a person's womb (uterus), per MedlinePlus. According to ...

  13. Pro and Con: Abortion

    Legal abortion promotes a culture in which life is disposable. Increased access to birth control, health insurance, and sexual education would make abortion unnecessary. This article was published on June 24, 2022, at Britannica's ProCon.org, a nonpartisan issue-information source. Some argue that believe abortion is a safe medical procedure ...

  14. Abortion Argumentative Essay

    Introduction. Over time, research findings show that ambivalence is evident when a woman decides on keeping the child; however, abortion becomes a choice when there are fears about adverse effects that might occur to a woman. ... Abortion Argumentative Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from https://edubirdie ...

  15. Abortion: Good Or Bad Depends On The Situations

    Introduction. Abortion has become one of the hottest debates in the world. With the rising alarm in overpopulation and hiking economic standards, the need to give birth has raised questions among institutions and individuals. The discussion has mainly been stuck in between two perspectives of the debaters, the economic as well as the moral view.

  16. A Brief History of Abortion in the U.S.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, up to 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed each year in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute . In 1965, 17% of reported deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth were associated with illegal abortion. A rubella outbreak from 1963-1965 moved the dial again, back toward more liberal abortion laws.

  17. Introduction of abortion

    Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it can survive outside the uterus. [note 1] An abortion that occurs without intervention is known as a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. When deliberate steps are taken to end a pregnancy, it is called an induced abortion, or less frequently "induced ...

  18. Abortion Essay

    Abortion discusses one's interaction where ethics, emotions, medical, and law come into place. According to the Webster Dictionary abortion is the loss of the fetus or unborn child before it can live outside the womb. The killing a human life is a contradiction to the norms of society, from a biblical point of view.

  19. Important conclusions from abortion studies

    Abstract. In general, it can be concluded that the initiative on the determinants and consequences of induced abortion has shown some important patterns. For example, induced abortion is not restricted to adolescents but occurs also within marriage to limit family size. Induced abortion is prevalent both where family planning services are ...

  20. Pros and Cons of Abortion: 6 Things to Consider

    Pregnancy and childbirth can also trigger mental health conditions, including perinatal depression, gender dysphoria, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Abortion does not seem to trigger ...

  21. Opinion

    The Case Against Abortion. Nov. 30, 2021. Crosses representing abortions in Lindale, Tex. Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times. 3367. By Ross Douthat. Opinion Columnist. A striking thing about the ...

  22. 5 Conclusions

    Four legal abortion methods—medication, 1 aspiration, dilation and evacuation (D&E), and induction—are used in the United States. Length of gestation—measured as the amount of time since the first day of the last _____ 1 The terms "medication abortion" and "medical abortion" are used interchangeably in the literature. This report ...

  23. abortion law essayintroductionbodyconclusionpahelp po pls

    In this essay, I'll show my opinions why I don't agree with abortion. First, everyone should have responsibility for their behavior. Some people think that abortion is an easy way to avoid having a baby. Therefore, they mate whenever they want. And after that, if they notice a pregnancy, they'll go to the hospital.