Abortion: Facts Behind the Controversy

Abortion statistics indicate that almost one-third of American women will have an abortion at some point in their life. Political controversy surrounds the topic of abortion, making factual information difficult to obtain. Research institutes and abortion clinics provide data about abortion so that the average American can understand the facts behind abortion.

The Guttmacher Institute has published many abortion facts, including information about the difficulty in obtaining an abortion. According to the institute, 1,793 abortion providers exist in the United States. These clinics are concentrated in 13 percent of U.S. counties, leaving 87 percent of counties without an abortion clinic. Many women report obtaining abortions later than preferred due to difficulty in finding a provider, making an appointment and obtaining funds to pay for their abortion.

Abortions can be performed surgically or medically. Medical abortions are most common during the first trimester and don’t require anesthesia. Either pills or shots are used to administer the medication, and several visits to a healthcare provider are required to ensure that the pregnancy was terminated.

Surgical abortions require anesthesia and are often more controversial in the United States. This type of abortion includes vacuuming, D&C, D&E and partial birth abortions. Vaccuum-based abortions are performed early in the pregnancy and involve the use of manual or electric pumps to remove the fetus from the uterus.

Dilation and curettage (D&C) abortions, consist of opening, or dilating, the cervix and scraping the uterus with a curette to remove any fetal matter. D&Cs are rarely used for induced abortions, but are used by some providers to manage spontaneous abortions, also known as miscarriages.

Dilation and evacuation, or D&E, abortions are similar to D&Cs, but the fetus is removed primarily with a vacuum. Partial birth abortions, or intact dilation and extraction, involves dilating the cervix, removing the fetus’s body, except the head, suctioning the brain matter from the fetus’s head, then removing the skull. This procedure is banned in the United States.

Abortion cost varies depending on the method and clinic chosen and where the mother is in her pregnancy. Medical abortions performed in the first weeks of pregnancy may cost a few hundred dollars. Some clinics for abortion offer sliding-scale payments for low-income women to make abortions affordable for everyone who needs them. A late-term surgical abortion can require a surgeon, anesthesiologist and several nurses, and may cost over $10,000. Travel expenses may add even more to the cost of a third-trimester abortion, because many states do not have late-term abortion providers.