At Gurl, we absolutely support the right to a safe abortion, and we know many of our readers do too. But no matter if you support abortion or you’re against it, you should actually know exactly what you’re supporting or fighting against. Yes, even the most pro-choice girls don’t really know how abortion works! Many might not even know that there is more than one way to have an abortion.
At a time when countries are trying to restrict women’s health and rights, knowing the facts about abortion is more important than ever. It’s time to separate fact from fiction for once and for all. So check out the nitty gritty about abortion below, you won’t regret it.
What exactly is an abortion?
An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by removing a fetus or embryo from one’s uterus. They are performed before the fetus can survive on its own outside of the womb. The only exception to this rule occurs during late-term abortions, but they’re performed when the life of the mother is at risk.
Are there different kinds of abortions? How are they performed?
Okay here we go, hang tight.
Yes, there are two primary modes of having a safe abortion: a medical abortion and a surgical abortion.
Medical Abortion: This is a non-surgical way of terminating a pregnancy by taking medication known as an abortion pill. It is generally used within the first 9 weeks (63 days) of a pregnancy. It’s incredibly effective and works in 97 out of 100 cases according to Planned Parenthood. Here’s how it works
1) You’ll take the abortion pill, which blocks the hormone progesterone. A lack of progesterone will break down the uterine lining, making it impossible for the pregnancy to continue. You will also receive antibiotics to take after you take the pill.
2) You’ll take a second pill called misoprostol 24 to 48 hours after taking the abortion pill. This medicine essentially flushes the uterus out, causing heavy bleeding and intense cramps. This usually lasts for only a few hours. Most women successfully abort during this time frame, but it can last up to a few days for others. Honestly, this process sucks because you’re not going to feel great. You might feel dizzy and nauseous or develop a mild fever. Usually taking some Ibuprofin will help ease the grossness.
After all of that, you need to have a follow up appointment with your doctor, clinic, whatever two weeks later to ensure that the pregnancy is successfully terminated.
Surgical Abortion: This is the method you’re probably most familiar with. It’s the more invasive way of performing an abortion and they’re incredibly effective. There are two kinds of surgical abortions, the most common being aspiration, which is generally performed no later than 16 weeks after a missed period. The other is dilation and evacuation, a later-term abortion method which occurs later than 16 weeks after a missed period. The procedures are largely the same, but the latter requires a little more time and pain meds.
Anyway, if you have a surgical abortion, you’ll most likely receive an aspiration, otherwise known as a vacuum aspiration. If you’re imagining a Hoover, er, you’re not entirely incorrect. Here’s what happens during this five to ten minute long procedure (yes, only five minutes!):
1) A health care practitioner will check out your uterus and see what’s going on up there.
2) You’ll be given the option to be totally conscious or sedated, which leaves you conscious but super relaxed.
3) A speculum will be inserted into your vagina. This tool simply helps separate the vaginal walls so that your health care provider can examine your vag and cervix. They might proceed to inject numbing medication in or around your cervix.
4) Next, your cervix will be stretched with dilators, a fancy way of saying a few thick rods. As an alternative, you might have absorbent dilators inserted a day or a few hours before your abortion; they absorb fluid and help stretch the cervix.
5) A tube is inserted into the cervix and the uterus and either via a hand held devise or a machine, the uterus is gently emptied out. Another tool known as a curette might be used to help remove any additional tissues left behind.
6) You’ll be given antibiotics and a recovery time of about an hour.
Most people say that this procedure feels like having menstrual cramps, but some have more uncomfortable experiences. It’s a good rule of thumb to take it easy afterwards, as you might feel kinda icky for the rest of the day. Bleeding is normal, but it’s also common not to bleed at all after an abortion.
No matter what abortion technique you undergo, if you experience bleeding only use pads! Not tampons, not menstrual cups, pads.
Okay but what happens afterward?
You’ll, hopefully, be pregnancy free! But otherwise, it’s just as I said earlier: You can experience bleeding, nausea, bowel weirdness and general ick. But this won’t last very long!
But that’s physically. Emotionally, well, it depends. But you definitely need some down time.
What about age?
That varies from country to country and state to state.
In the United States these rules are particularly messy. If you’re under the age of 18, you might be required to have one or both of your parents give you permission or at least know about your decision to have an abortion before your procedure. However, there are exceptions to this rule. You could get a judge to excuse you from requiring parental permission, you could get permission or notify a legal guardian instead of your parents, too. Some states will even allow you to forgo asking for permission all together if you’re a victim of abuse or neglect.
If you live in California, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, or Washington and you’re under 18, congrats, you don’t have to tell anyone a damn thing before getting an abortion. Check your state’s rules here.
In the United Kingdom, a minor who is deemed competent by medical staff can receive an abortion without parental notification or permission. However, anyone under the age of 13 are not given the same provisions. Social workers or the police might get involved in that case.
In Canada, age restrictions do not exist when it comes to abortion.
Isn’t abortion murder? It’s killing babies!
First of all, there is a difference between a fetus and a baby. A baby is, you know, born. A fetus only begins developing away from its zygote (fertilized egg) stage after 2 months of pregnancy. A fetus is a part of its mother, a baby is not. But honestly, shrugging and saying, “Eh, it’s just a clump of cells” shouldn’t be the only way to support abortion. Some people are going to view aborting fetuses as ending a life, no matter what. If you’re of this belief, you have the right to that opinion. But forcing women to feel like a murderer after terminating the “life” of a fetus that isn’t sentient, can’t feel, can’t think, can’t see, etc isn’t exactly effective. Especially given the fact that this procedure is 100 percent legal in a majority of the world.
Wait, but I heard that a fetus can feel pain!
People wouldn’t need to get abortions if they just kept their legs closed!
It’s strange how people assume that everyone who gets an abortion is some big ol’ slut who happily has unprotected sex and doesn’t care about the consequences. Uh, that’s not the case at all. Nobody looks forward to an abortion. Nobody wants to deal with awful cramps, nausea and bleeding out of their cooch; especially in the states when procedures are often upward of $400. Also, given the fact that so many conservative areas have made abortion access as difficult as possible, some women have to travel over 50 miles or even go out of state to reach their closest abortion clinic. Yeah, sounds like people are really using abortion as birth control, right? Not.
It’s also worth mentioning that half of the people who receive an abortion used contraception the month that they became pregnant. Oh, and over 60 percent of people in the United States who have an abortion already have one or two children. Doesn’t exactly sound like folks’ stereotype of the teenage, irresponsible sex machine, does it?
Are there ways to naturally abort?
Many people swear by herbal abortion remedies, but you shouldn’t do it. They’re incredibly dangerous so, yeah, just say no.
I’m not sure if I’m pro-choice or pro-life!
Do you believe that someone should have access to a safe termination of her pregnancy before the fetus is viable? Congrats, you’re pro-choice. If this goes against what you believe in then you’re anti-abortion.
I don’t like abortion and think we should have less of them.
Nobody likes abortions. Seriously, who likes surgery or dealing with any sort of physical discomfort? People who are pro-choice aren’t supporting abortions because they love the idea of a uterus getting flushed out. They support abortions because they know that they’re a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy. But if we really want to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancy and abortion, then we need to make sure that people have as much access to contraception as possible. Birth control! IUDs! Condoms! All that good stuff.
If abortion becomes illegal, that’ll force people to be safer about sex, right?
Uh, no. Abortions aren’t going to stop happening if they’re illegal. It’ll just make abortions an underground practice, which is so dangerous. If people are so concerned about life, wouldn’t they want to make sure that people are as safe as possible? Not sure how that’s going to happen when desperate women end up resorting to back-alley abortions which could end up killing them.
I’m pregnant and I want an abortion but I’m scared!
It’s natural to be scared! Here’s what you need to do: Make sure you are legally able to obtain an abortion. If you’re lucky enough to have healthcare, it could cover most if not all of the cost. If not, try raising some money via a Go Fund Me campaign or something of that sort (if you appeal to sites like Tumblr, you could end up with enough funds pretty quickly). Find your closest clinic, grab one of your closest friends and make the trek. Make sure you do this on a weekend so that you have a few days to recover.
If I have an abortion, will I regret it?
That depends on a lot of factors, including whether or not you’ve had adaquete support prior to your abortion or if you have a history of emotional problems. If it makes you feel any better, however, 90 percent of women don’t regret their abortion, so chances are you won’t either. Good luck!
Have you or has someone you know had an abortion? What would you say to girls and young women who are considering the procedure? Tell us in the comments!