There are two main types of abortion: medical and surgical.

Medical abortions are for women who are less than 10 weeks along in the pregnancy.  This consists of taking two medications. The first is RU486 or mifepristone, taken on the first day, and then 2 days later, Cytotec or misoprostol is taken.  The mifepristone essentially stops the placenta from working and the baby dies.  However, the uterus or womb is not emptied.  That is what the misoprostol is designed for.  Usually the placenta and baby are passed within 8 hours. There is a reversal procedure available after taking the first drug, which studies have shown to have a 64-68% success rate.

There are various surgical procedures used for abortion.  Most commonly used is a suction curettage for early pregnancy.  The doctor numbs the cervix or opening into the uterus by injecting local anesthesia.  The cervix is widened or dilated and a suction device scrapes the placenta from the lining of the uterus and the placenta and baby are removed.

Other techniques may be used later in pregnancy including, from the vagina, dilating the cervix and removing parts of the baby with a grasping device and then scraping the placenta from the wall of the uterus.

It is usually recommended to have an ultrasound before the procedure to see how far along the pregnancy is.  This is for the safety of the mother.

Side effects include bleeding, infection, pain, and stress.

Complications include failure to abort, failure to abort a twin, sterility, and death of the mother. There have been reported various mental health issues related to abortion.  It seems that after the procedure, mental health problems already preexisting in women may worsen, but it is not clear that the procedure causes mental health problems.


There are many excellent websites that provide more details.  These include the Pennsylvania Health Department at: