Can abortion hurt me?

Possible immediate complications include:

Hemorrhage Infection
Ripped or perforated uterus Cervical injury  
Embolism Anesthesia complications
Convulsions Chronic abdominal pain
Gastrointestinal disturbances Endotoxic shock
Second-degree burns Rh sensitization


Some immediate risks are life-threatening.1

Infections are caused by bacteria entering the uterus during surgical procedures. They are more likely if untreated disease, such as an STD (sexually transmitted disease) is present prior to the procedure. Symptoms of fever, pain, and abdominal tenderness will usually start within two to three days.

The risks of second trimester abortions are higher than for those done in the first, particularly if they are done after 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Particular danger of medical abortion: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that women have died from a severe infection after abortions using the mifepristone and vaginal misoprostol method. Signs of serious infection include weakness, nausea, and diarrhea with or without belly pain, but may not cause a fever. Women are advised to call their doctor or go to the hospital if they have any of these signs of a serious infection after medical abortion.2

1. Frank, et.al., “Induced Abortion Operations and Their Early Sequelae,” Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners 35(73):175-180, April 1985; Grimes and Cates, “Abortion: Methods and Complications,” in Human Reproduction, 2nd ed., 796-813; MA Freedman, “Comparison of complication rates in first trimester abortions performed by physician assistants and physicians,” Am. J. Public Health 76(5):550-554, 1986).

2. “Before, During, and After an Abortion: When to Call a Doctor,” WebMD: Women’s Health, http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/abortion-before-during-and-after-an-abortion-when-to-call-a-doctor#2, accessed 2/16/2017.

Abortion can damage reproductive organs and cause long-term (sometimes permanent) complications that put future pregnancies at risk. Women who abort are more likely than those who have not aborted to experience the following:

Tubal (ectopic) pregnancies Infertility
Hysterectomies Stillbirths
Miscarriages Premature births


Women who abort also have a greater risk of developing cancer – of the breast, cervix, and lung.

Abortion puts women at increased risk of self-destructive behaviors – promiscuity, smoking, drug abuse, and eating disorders.

Reproductive complications and problems with subsequent deliveries after abortion – can include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), placenta previa, ectopic pregnancy, endometritus, pre-term or post-term deliveries, death or disability of newborns.3

3. Strahan, T. Detrimental Effects of Abortion: An Annotated Bibliography with Commentary (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2002) 168-206.

Abortion risks are often intensified for teenagers.4

  • Teens are up to twice as likely to experience cervical lacerations during abortion compared to older women, probably because their cervixes are smaller and more difficult to dilate or grasp with instruments.

  • The bodies of teenagers are more susceptible to infection (pelvic inflammatory disease and endometritis). They are also less likely than older women to follow instructions for medical care. Infections increase their risk of infertility, hysterectomy, ectopic pregnancy, and other serious complications.

  • An early full-term birth reduces breast cancer risk by as much as 1/3, while abortion of a first pregnancy carries a 30 to 50% increased risk of breast cancer. More than 90% of those who abort at 17 or younger have not had a previous full-term pregnancy, compared to 78% of patients age 18-19 and 49% of abortion patients overall.

  • Teens are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide if they’ve had an abortion in the last six months than girls who have not had an abortion; they are 2-4 times more likely to commit suicide after abortion than adult women.5

4. “Teen Abortion Risks” factsheet (longer version), The Elliot Institute, www.theunchoice.com/pdf/FactSheets/TeenFactSheet.pdf.

5. B. Garfinkel, et al., “Stress, Depression and Suicide: A Study of Adolescents in Minnesota,”  Responding to High Risk Youth (University of Minnesota: Minnesota Extension Service, 1986); M. Gissler, et. al., “Suicides After Pregnancy in Finland: 1987-94: register linkage study,” British Medical Journal, 313: 1431-1434, 1996; and N. Campbell, et. al., “Abortion in Adolescence,” Adolescence, 23:813-823, 1988.

  • Women are more likely to commit or attempt suicide after an abortion than women who carry a child to term.

  • Women who abort are more at risk of long-term clinical depression than women who deliver a child.

  • After abortion, significant percentages of women report eating disorders and substance abuse.

  • Women with a history of abortion often experience divorce and chronic relationship problems.

  • In one study of U.S. women who had abortions, 65% reported experiencing multiple symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Factors that put women at risk for negative reactions to abortion include feeling pressured into unwanted abortions, lack of support, being more religious, prior emotional or psychological problems, adolescence, being unsure of her decision, and receiving little or no counseling prior to abortion. Analysis of 63 medical studies that identify risk factors concluded that the number of women suffering from negative emotional reactions could be dramatically reduced if abortion clinics screened women for these risk factors.6

In one study of women who’d had abortions, 67% of American women said they received no counseling prior; 84% said counseling was inadequate; 79% received no information about alternatives; 54% were unsure of their decision at the time.7 This underscores the need for the kind of information that pregnancy care centers deliver.

Women coerced into abortion commonly report feelings of guilt, regret, loss, anger, and depression. 64% of abortions involve coercion.8

6. David C. Reardon, “The Duty to Screen: Clinical, Legal, and Ethical Implications of Predictive Risk Factors of Post-Abortion Maladjustment,” The Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy 20(2):33-114, Spring 2004.

7.  VM Rue et. al., “Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women,” Medical Science Monitor 10(10): SR5-16, 2004.

8. “Psychological Risks: Traumatic After-Effects of Abortion” factsheet (longer version), The Elliot Institute, www.theunchoice.com/pdf/FactSheets/PsychologicalRisks.pdf.

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