An abortion is an intentional termination of a pregnancy. Generally, there are two main types of abortion procedures: medical abortion (also called medication abortion or an abortion with pills) and surgical abortion.

Medical Abortion

A medical abortion, or an abortion with pills, is a way to end a pregnancy by using medication. You can have a medical abortion either by using a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, or by using repeated doses of misoprostol only.

The abortion pills work be relaxing the cervix (the opening the uterus), and triggering uterine contractions. This causes bleeding and cramping, and leads to the expulsion of the pregnancy. Medical abortions are very similar to natural miscarriages. Pain or discomfort caused by the side effects of the medication can be managed through proper care.

Research indicates that medical abortions are safe and effective in pregnancies up to 10 weeks. Depending on local laws and the preference of the woman, medical abortions may be managed in clinic, or privately at home

Surgical Abortion

A surgical abortion requires a minor surgical procedure to end the pregnancy. There are two main types of safe surgical abortion, and determining which procedure is most appropriate will depend on the length of the pregnancy.

Vacuum aspiration

During a vacuum aspiration, a small cannula is inserted through the vagina and into the uterus. This cannula creates a small vacuum, which removes the contents of the uterus. This method of abortion is safe, and usually used to terminate pregnancies between 12-14 weeks.

Dilation and Evacuation

Dilation and Evacuation is an abortion procedure usually reserved for pregnancies beyond 14 weeks. Through the combined use of drugs, dilators, and other medical instruments, a medical provider removes the fetus from the uterus. Because of the complexity of Dilation and Evacuation, it is important that the medical provider is well trained in the procedure.

Dilation and Curettage

Dilation and Curettage was once a commonly used form of surgical abortion. However, the World Health Organization no longer recognizes this form of an abortion as safe, and suggests that it is replaced with other safe abortion methods.

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Claire is a teacher, reproductive rights advocate, and the manager of