Hesperian Health Guides

Abortion

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 9: Family planning > Abortion


When something is done to end a pregnancy, it is called an ‘abortion’. The unplanned loss of a pregnancy is called a ‘miscarriage’ or ‘spontaneous abortion.’ See more
information about the causes of a miscarriage.

Deciding to have an abortion can be hard. Some religions teach that abortion is wrong, and in many countries abortion it is not legal or safe. But there are many reasons a woman may try to have an abortion anyway. In making a decision, most women will benefit from warm, respectful advice and friendly support. Here are some examples of why a woman may want an abortion:

  • She already has all the children she can care for.
  • A pregnancy is a danger to her health or her life.
  • She has no partner to help support the child.
  • She wants to finish school.
  • She does not want to have children.
  • She got pregnant after being forced to have sex.
  • Someone is forcing her to have an abortion.

Safe abortion

a health worker treating a disabled woman on an exam table.

Where abortion is legal and available, a woman can have a safe abortion when it is done under clean and sterile conditions in a hospital, health center or clinic by a trained health worker. It will not usually endanger her future pregnancies. Also, abortions are safest when done in early pregnancy. There are 3 kinds of abortion that can be safe:

Vacuum aspiration. A health worker uses a machine or manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) syringe to empty the womb. If vacuum aspiration is done correctly, it is usually safe. (See A Book for Midwives, Chapter 23.)

D&C (dilation and curettage). A health worker empties the womb by scraping it with a sterile instrument. A woman who has had more than 3 D&C abortions may have scar tissue on the womb that can make a later pregnancy difficult.

Medical abortion. The woman takes medicines that end the pregnancy and empty the womb. Talk with an experienced health worker about the medicines that are safe and effective for this. (See Where Women Have No Doctor: Safe Methods of Abortion.)

Unsafe abortion

a disabled woman on the floor bleeding heavily from the vagina.

In places where abortion is illegal, a woman trying to end a pregnancy may harm herself or turn to someone who does not give abortions safely. Unsafe abortions can cause heavy bleeding, serious infection or infertility, and are often a major cause of death for women.

These unnecessary deaths can be prevented when disabled women work with other women and men to make abortion safe, legal, and accessible for all women in their communities.