When Is It too Late to Get an Abortion?

When a woman is faced with an unplanned pregnancy and chooses to terminate it, a common question is, “when is it too late to get an abortion?” The answer depends on what stage the pregnancy is in and fetal viability or the ability to survive after it is born. There are a number of different options for what stage the pregnancy is in and this article will explore thoseoptions and abortion safety.

When Is It too Late to Get an Abortion?

Time limits on abortion are set to prevent a viable fetus from being aborted and avoid risks to the mother’s health.

In the United States, it actually depends on the state in which you live. It goes by the fetal age of viability and that is around 24 weeks. This means the fetus is most likely able to survive outside the mother’s body at or around 24 weeks, so if an abortion is performed after this period it is considered “intent to murder.”

If a mother chooses to have an abortion, it is usually recommended sooner than later. This is safer for the mother and easier to perform. Most abortions usually occur between the 12th and 13th week of pregnancy. There are a few circumstances where some abortions are performed later in the pregnancy, but it is important to check the laws of your state.

There are individual guidelines as to the type of abortion performed:

  • Abortion Pills – Abortion pills are considered a medical abortion. This type of abortion can be done up to the 7th week of pregnancy. The doctor will give the first medication in the clinic to begin the process and then the second medication is taken at home.
  • Surgical Abortion – This type of abortion can be done anytime up to the 14th week in most states, but some do allow them up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Only in extreme cases will an abortion ever be allowed after the 24th week. There must be a threat to the mother’s or baby’s life if the pregnancy is to continue.
  • Abortion By InductionAfter the 16th week of pregnancy, abortions may be performed by admitting the mother to the hospital and giving medications to induce early labor. The fetus will be delivered and the doctor may combine this procedure with a surgical abortion to make sure the uterus is completely empty.

What Are the Risks of Abortion?

The risks of abortion increase as the pregnancy progresses. This is one of the reasons that time limits have been set, the other is ethical if the fetus could survive outside the womb. Risks of abortion and late abortions include:

  • Perforated uterus and infection
  • Permanent uterine damage
  • Damage to the cervix
  • Hemorrhage
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Retained uterine contents (Requires a second procedure)
  • Organ damage
  • Death in rare cases

The risk of death with abortion increases with weeks of pregnancy. During the first 8 weeks, the risk of death is 1 in every 530,000 abortions. During the 16th to 20th weeks, the risk is 1 death per 17,000 abortions. Weeks 21 and over, the risk of death is 1 in 6,000. All of the risks also depend on the location the procedure is performed i.e. clinic or hospital. The skill of the physician, the mother’s health, and the type of procedure performed.

If a medical abortion is chosen using pills, to avoid risks the mother needs to meet certain criteria:

  • Have access to transportation
  • Be close to an emergency room in case of severe bleeding
  • Have a home telephone to call the doctor or 911 if needed
  • Have someone at home to help if needed

Because of the above risks, abortions need to be performed very carefully and the right procedure for the right stage of pregnancy.

Deciding When and If Abortion Is Right

Women considering an abortion will need to visit a doctor that performs them. Look for a reputable abortion clinic or hospital with a proven safety record. At the first visit, they will date the pregnancy very carefully by both dates and an ultrasound. As soon as the date is determined to be in the legally allowed time frame the following will occur:

  • Minors will need to get parental consent.
  • Medical history is taken
  • Physical examination
  • Lab tests
  • Abortion counseling to include risks, your questions, and your feelings about the procedure
  • Information is given and a 24 hour waiting period needs to occur
  • Consent forms signed for the procedure

When you see the doctor, they decide which procedure is right for the pregnancy dates. Before you move forward, there are a few things to think about:

  • The heart begins to beat around the 5th week of pregnancy. There is always the question whether life begins in the womb or after birth. The longer you wait to have an abortion you may feel more guilt about ending the pregnancy if you know there is a heartbeat.
  • Feeling the baby move. Fetal movement known as “quickening” may be felt by the mother as early as the 13th week of pregnancy. The actual range is from the 13th through 20th week. Once you feel your baby move, you may develop an attachment and bond. The longer you wait to have the procedure, it may be very hard to do once you feel life inside of you.
  • Late-Term aborted babies after the 20th week can be born alive. There are cases where a fetus is viable prior to the 24th week and continues to live after being aborted. While this is rare, it has happened.
  • With the abortion pill, you will miscarry at home. Abortion clinics will let you know that if you use the abortion pill, you will pass the materials of pregnancy at home. Be prepared to see clots and tissue when the pregnancy passes. When done earlier in the pregnancy, the fewer materials you will pass.

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