What is abortion?

Abortion is a medical process in which medicine or surgery is used to end a pregnancy. This is also known as a ‘termination’.

Many people assume that there is one type of abortion but there are, in fact, three types of abortion.

Types of abortion

One type of abortion, known as ‘therapeutic abortion’ is performed in cases where there is significant or life threatening risk to the woman’s health. Other reasons include reducing the number of foetuses in the womb due to a multiple pregnancy; to prevent the birth of a baby with a severe genetic disorder or at risk of a potentially fatal disease.

Another type of abortion is known as ‘elective abortion’. This means it is carried out as a matter of personal choice and usually for reasons other than those mentioned above. In other words, the woman chooses to have an abortion.

There is a third type of abortion in which the foetus is expelled from the woman’s body as a result of an accident, injury or natural causes. This is known as a ‘spontaneous abortion’ or by its more common name – a miscarriage.

The difference between therapeutic and elective abortions and a miscarriage is that the first two involve medical intervention: whereas a miscarriage occurs on its own accord.

There are two methods of abortion which are:

  • Medical abortion: involves taking medication to end your pregnancy.
  • Surgical abortion: surgery is used to remove the foetus from the womb to end a pregnancy.

Both of these are discussed in greater detail in our methods of abortion section. The procedure you have will depend upon your medical history, you and your GP’s preferences and the legality.

Most women have an abortion in the first 13 weeks of their pregnancy but it is possible to have an abortion at a later stage than that. This is known as a ‘late term abortion’ and is discussed further in the next section.

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