What Actually Happens When You Have An Abortion?

56 million abortions occur annually worldwide

And though opinions on the matter are strong,

many are simply unaware of how they actually work

So, regardless of whether you're pro-life or pro-choice:

What actually happens during an abortion?

Abortion procedures range from taking a pill to surgical options

often based on availability or how far along a pregnancy is

And 92% of legal U.S. abortions take place within the first thirteen weeks of gestation

The oral tablet is effective 49 days from one's last menstrual period

Often containing mifepristone, it works by blocking the hormone progesterone

Progesterone promotes smooth muscle relaxation in the uterine wall throughout pregnancy

and so the pill causes the uterus to contract

and the embryo to be expelled in what seems like a heavy period

Vacuum aspiration is a surgical procedure

usually used up to 16 weeks after conception

and is typically performed under local or general anaesthesia

The cervix is numbed and opened wide enough to pass the Slender Tube into the uterus

where suction is used to empty the contents

Within the same time line, a D&C or dilation and curettage abortion can be used

First, this cervix is dilated using small instruments or medication

and then a curette is used to remove the contents of the uterus

If your pregnancy is between 12 to 24 weeks,

a D&E or dilation and evacuation abortion is likely used

although only 1.2 percent of abortions occur after 21 weeks

In a D&A abortion, the cervix needs to be dilated wider

often using osmotic dilators which are short rods made of seaweed or synthetic material

which absorb moisture and slowly stretch the cervix

These are usually inserted the day before surgery

Once dilated a fetal, aplacental tissue is removed at the evacuation of forceps and a curette

The decision to have an abortion after 24 weeks is extremely rare and often due to severe fetal anomalies

When abortions are allowed by the local law, they are one of the safest procedures in medicine

with case fatality rates less than one death per 100,000 procedures

In the U.S., the risk of death associated with childbirth is 14 times higher in women than that of an abortion

There are also myths that abortion is linked to an increased risk of cancer as well as

difficulties in conceiving or carrying a future pregnancy

But both of these claims have been refuted by extensive medical research

However, unsafe abortions practiced by individuals without the necessary skills

or in an environment that does not conform to medical standards

caused an estimated 68 thousand women to die yearly

while a further 5 million suffered temporary or permanent disability

Methods range from ingesting toxic solutions, inserting foreign bodies into the uterus and even trauma

The World Health Organisation has called unsafe abortions a 'preventable pandemic'

And laws that limit a woman's access to an abortion or make abortions illegal do not reduce the number of abortions

Countries where abortions are illegal have roughly the same number of abortions

What changes instead is the incidence of unsafe abortions

A 2011 study did find that state-level anti-abortion laws in Texas

correlated with lower abortion rates in the state

But these results did not account for women traveling to other states with less restrictive laws to receive a procedure

Conversely, researchers have found that sex education and access to contraceptive methods do reduce the number of abortions

by minimizing unwanted pregnancies

This can be seen in the abortion rates decreasing significantly in the developed world since 1990

Ultimately, access to legal abortions make women's lives safer and healthier

If you'd like to learn about plan B or emergency contraceptive

which is not the same thing as an abortion

you can check out our video on that [here]

And don't forget to subscribe for more weekly science videos every Thursday