Immediate Physical Risks
Abortion carries the risk of significant complications such as bleeding, infection and damage to organs. Serious medical complications occur infrequently in early abortions, but increase with later abortions. 26 There is evidence that induced abortion can be associated with significant loss of both emotional and physical health long term. 35 Getting complete information on the risks associated with abortion is limited due to incomplete reporting and the lack of record-keeping linking abortions to complications. The information that is available reports the following risks:
Some bleeding after abortion is normal. However, if the cervix is torn or the uterus is punctured, there is a risk of severe bleeding known as hemorrhaging. When this happens, a blood transfusion may be required. 5, 30
Infection can develop from the insertion of medical instruments into the uterus or from fetal parts that are mistakenly left inside (known as incomplete abortion). This may cause bleeding and/or a pelvic infection requiring antibiotics, and may result in the need for a surgical procedure to fully empty the uterus. Infection may cause scarring of the pelvic organs. 3, 37, 38, 39
Complications from general anesthesia used during abortion surgery may result in convulsions, heart complications and death, in extreme cases. 5
The cervix and/or uterus may be cut, torn or punctured by abortion instruments. This may cause excessive bleeding requiring surgical repair. Curettes and other abortion instruments may cause permanent scarring of the uterine lining. The risk of these types of complications increases with the length of the pregnancy. If complications occur, major surgery may be required, including removal of the uterus (known as a hysterectomy). If the uterus is punctured or torn, there is also a risk that damage may occur to nearby organs such as the bowel and bladder. 5,30, 38
Every pregnant woman should receive blood type testing to learn if her blood type is “Rh positive” or “Rh negative”. Pregnant women who are Rh negative should receive Rhogam, an injection given to prevent the formation of antibodies that may harm the baby. If an Rh negative woman does not receive Rhogam with each pregnancy, she may develop antibodies which can cause serious complications with her next pregnancy. Rhogam is needed for Rh negative women who undergo abortion. 40
In extreme cases, complications from abortion (excessive bleeding, infection, organ damage from a perforated uterus and adverse reactions to anesthesia) may lead to death.5, 26 The risk of death immediately following an induced abortion performed at or below 8 weeks is extremely low (approximately 1 in a million) but increases with length of pregnancy. From 8 weeks to 16-20 weeks, the risk of death increases 30 times, and from 8 weeks to 21 weeks and over, it increases 100 times (1 in 11,000). 41
The FDA has included a “Black Box Warning” on the Mifeprex (RU-486/Abortion Pill) labeling and package insert. The FDA requires black box warnings for prescription medications that have potentially fatal, life-threatening, or disabling adverse effects. 14 They are the most serious warning that the FDA attaches to a medication.
Long Term Physical Risks
Finding out the real risks associated with abortion is difficult due to incomplete reporting of complications and scientific bias, yet you should be equipped to be able to give full informed consent before going through a procedure or taking medicine that could have long-term effects on your health. 36, 42 Consider the following as you make your decision:
Women who undergo one or more induced abortions carry a significantly increased risk of delivering prematurely in the future. 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 Premature delivery is associated with higher rates of children with cerebral palsy, as well as other complications (respiratory, bowel, brain and eye problems). 48, 49
Medical experts continue to debate the association between abortion and breast cancer. Research has shown the following:
- Carrying a pregnancy to full term gives a measure of protection against breast cancer, especially a woman’s first pregnancy. 50 Terminating a pregnancy may result in loss of that protection.
- The hormones of pregnancy cause breast tissue to grow rapidly in the first 3 months, but it is not until after 32 weeks of pregnancy that breasts are relatively more cancer resistant due to the maturation that occurs. 51, 52
A number of reliable studies have concluded that there is an association between abortion and later development of breast cancer. 53, 54
Psychological / Emotional Impact
Following abortion, many women experience initial relief. The perceived crisis is over and life returns to normal. For many women, however, the crisis isn’t over. Months and even years later, significant problems develop. There is evidence that abortion is associated with decrease in long-term emotional and physical health. 35, 55
Extending the gestational age when an abortion may be done (from 7 weeks to 10 weeks), significantly increases the likelihood of women seeing a completely recognizable baby expelled. It is largely unknown what impact this may have on a woman’s psyche.
Women who have experienced abortion may develop the following:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty bonding with partner or children
- Eating disorders
The bottom line is that the scientific evidence indicates that abortion is more likely to be associated with negative psychological outcomes when compared to miscarriage or carrying an unintended pregnancy to term. 62, 64, 69, 70, 71
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, Gateway offers confidential, compassionate support groups (link to after abortion page) designed to help women work through these feelings. You are not alone.
Psychological / Emotional Impact – MEN
Abortion is not just a women’s issue. For men who are staring abortion in the face, it is not a decision to be made lightly or without considering the possible consequences. Gateway has a trained, professional male counselor on staff that is available to help you consider all the options and make a decision that is best for you, both in the short and long term.
Men involved in an abortion can experience long-term, life-altering consequences. If you have been involved in an abortion, then Gateway is here to help. Post abortion support for men is provided by trained staff, and we ensure your total confidentiality.
Possible emotional consequences from an abortion experience include but are not limited to: 84
- Feeling of helplessness
- Loss of trust in others
These repercussions often arise as a delayed reaction occurring about five years after the abortion. In addition, physical illnesses of a psychosomatic nature found in the post-abortive man often include: 84
- High blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Violent behavior
- Substance abuse
- Relational instability
Many couples choose abortion believing it will preserve their relationship. Research on this topic reveals just the opposite. Couples who choose induced abortion are at increased risk for relationship problems. 72
Women experiencing lack of support and pressure to abort from their parents were more likely to choose abortion. 73
People have different understandings of God. Whatever your present beliefs may be, having an abortion may affect more than just your body and your mind – for many, there is a spiritual side to abortion that deserves consideration.
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Gateway provides one-on-one counseling, support and accurate information about all pregnancy options. We do not, however, provide or refer abortion services.