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It is a good idea to learn the various methods of determining the best and most accessible choice for you if you are considering an abortion.

Medical and surgical abortions are the main types. Both are safe and effective.

Depending on a number of factors, one might be preferable.

Since the Supreme Court of the United States voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the legal right to abortion nationwide, some states have already passed laws restricting access to abortion. Others are poised to follow suit.

“It’s not always easy to get an abortion, and you might face some challenges if you live in a different area.”

Stay informed

The information in this article was accurate and up to date at the time of publication, but it’s possible the information has changed since. To learn more about your legal rights, you can message the Repro Legal Helpline via a secure online form or call 844-868-2812.

According to reproductive health research, more than half of all abortions in the United States are medical abortions.

Medical abortion involves taking pills that terminate a pregnancy. You’ll most likely take a mifepristone pill followed by another medication called misoprostol, though some people will only take misoprostol.

The uterus is emptied when the medications stop the pregnancy from continuing.

Abortion pills are FDA-approved for ending a pregnancy up to 10 weeks, but they’re also used off-label later than this in some states.

In most states, you can get abortion pills from a provider in person or through a provider-staffed platform. This is a medication abortion.

Most people can also order abortion pills online and take them at home without working with a provider. This is called a “self-managed” abortion, and it’s just as safe and effective as clinician-supported abortion.

There is more information about medical abortion.

Safety, side effects, and risks

Most medical experts agree that abortion — whether medical or surgical — is safe. No more than 2% of people report complications, and most complications that do occur are easily treated with follow-up care.

There are some side effects that many or even most people will experience, though. The most common side effect of medical abortion is heavy There was bleeding. that lasts for a few days.

You can expect menstrual pain that is more intense than the other way around. It is a good reason to call a healthcare professional if you feel like it.

“Abortion pills cause your uterus to contract and expel the fetus’s tissue, so it’s natural for you to experience some There was bleeding. and pains. Moderate pain is a sign that your medication is working.”

The worst of the There was bleeding. and pain will happen within the first few hours, but lesser pains and spotting can last for weeks.

Some people experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and breast tenderness. Most of these should be resolved within a few days.

Infections and incomplete abortion are the main causes of concern, but they are rare.


Medical abortion is not recommended for everyone. You may not be eligible if you are.

  • are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy (a non-viable pregnancy that is attempting to develop outside of the uterus)
  • live with blood clotting disorders or anemia
  • Chronic adrenal failure is a condition that can be lived with.
  • Over the course of a long period of time, they have used steroid medicines.
  • live with inherited porphyrias (rare blood disorders)
  • There is an allergy to either Mifepristone or Misoprostol.

You also shouldn’t use abortion pills if you have an intrauterine device (IUD). You’ll need to have it removed before taking the pills.


“Medical abortion is an effective way to end a pregnant woman’s life.”

Research shows that the combination of mifepristone and misoprostol — the most common way to end an abortion via pills — fully ends pregnancy in 95–99% of cases.

Some people, especially people outside of the U.S., may only take misoprostol without mifepristone. This is also an effective abortion method, fully ending pregnancies in about 78% of people who take it.

More research is needed into the effectiveness of misoprostol alone. Some newer research suggests an even higher success rate, so the data is somewhat unclear for now.

The combination of both mifepristone and misoprostol is an effective way to have an abortion.


One study found that the average price of mifepristone and misoprostol ordered online ranged from $110–$360, including shipping and fees. The cost of misoprostol by itself was lower.

According to Planned Parenthood, abortion pills obtained in a clinic can cost up to $750, though costs may vary by state.

Access and legality

Many states have rushed to restrict or ban surgical abortion procedures since the fall of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Limiting access to abortion medication is up next for plenty of states, and some have already moved to ban it.

“If you have reached a certain point in your pregnancy, abortion providers and doctors can’t prescribe medication for you in your clinic. You may have to order online.”

Here’s what you need to know about telemedicine abortion in a post-Roe United States.

There are resources for accessing abortion medication by mail.

States may not have the ability to limit access to abortion medication in the long term.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that states can’t ban abortion pills that are approved by the FDA. That means misoprostol, at least, could remain or become legally accessible in most states.

Plus, President Joe Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand and protect access to abortion medication on the federal level.

It is not clear what that will look like, and you can expect many states to challenge any ruling that protects abortion access. If you are considering abortion, you should stay up-to-date on the laws in your state.

Prioritize your privacy

There are legal risks to self-managing abortion. Some states restrict access to abortion.

This means that discretion and privacy are of paramount importance.

If you can, tell as few people as you can about your decision to end the pregnancy.

Clear any internet search, private message, or phone call history that might connect this to you.

Trying to make sense of the limitations in your state? Our state-by-state guide to abortion restrictions can help.

A surgical abortion is a procedure done by a trained medical professional in a clinical setting like an abortion clinic or, sometimes, a hospital.

There are two main types of surgical abortion: vacuum aspiration and dilation and evacuation (D&E). Vacuum aspiration is most often used up to 16 weeks after your last period, while D&E is used up to 24 weeks.

Vacuum aspiration

Vacuum aspiration is the most common type of in-clinic abortion, according to provider Planned Parenthood.

“This procedure is used to empty your uterus. It isn’t painful, but you may feel a little bit of achy uterus as the tissue is removed.”

The procedure takes about 5 minutes. You may need to stay at the clinic for a few hours to make sure the abortion is complete.

Safety, side effects, and risks

Like other forms of abortion, vacuum aspiration is extremely safe. A large body of evidence suggests that fewer than 1% of people who have a vacuum aspiration procedure experience major complications.

There are side effects after a vacuum aspiration procedure.

  • Bleeding or spotting.
  • The person has cramps.
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • dizziness

As with any surgery or procedure, vacuum aspiration abortion has a small risk of infection. The chance of experiencing an infection from a vacuum aspiration abortion is likely a bit higher than it is from medical abortion.

Your provider may prescribe an antibiotic to help you.

Despite myths and misinformation, there is no evidence that having any kind of abortion affects your fertility, prevents you from becoming pregnant in the future, raises your risk of breast cancer or miscarriage, or affects your mental health in the long term.

Dilation and evacuation (D&E)

D&E is often used a bit later on in pregnancy. It uses a combination of vacuum aspiration, forceps, and dilation and curettage (D&C).

The provider dilates your cervix to make it easier to remove the tissue from the uterus. They may have you take medication that will help with the uterus contract and help with the condition.

They will use a curette to remove the uterus, a tube to remove the fetus and a pair of surgical instruments to remove the fetus and placenta.

You’ll have this procedure in a hospital or a clinic. A D&E can be somewhat painful, but your provider can give you numbing medicines or local anesthesia to prevent discomfort and will likely send you home with prescription pain medication.

The procedure takes less than 30 minutes. You can go home the same day, but you may need to wait for a while to make sure you are doing well.

Safety, side effects, and risks

D&E is a safe and common abortion method, and it’s the preferred choice for ending a pregnancy that has progressed to the second trimester.

That’s because it’s associated with the lowest risk of complications, including incomplete abortion, compared with other methods of ending pregnancies in the second trimester.

Side effects from a D&E may include:

  • There was bleeding.
  • It is a symptom of cramping.
  • Breast engorgement is when the breasts are not full.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea can be experienced.
  • “It’s cold.”

Some complications are possible but unlikely. These include infection, perforation, and excessive There was bleeding. or hemorrhage.


There are no conditions that prevent you from having a surgical abortion, but people with certain health conditions may need to have theirs in a hospital setting instead of a clinic to ensure their safety.

These include There was bleeding. diathesis or the use of anticoagulant medication. And if you have a pelvic infection, your provider will likely delay or reschedule your procedure if possible.


Vacuum aspiration and D&E are extremely effective for ending your pregnancy.

These abortions are successful about 98% of the time, with just 2% of people needing to return to a clinic for an additional procedure or a pill to complete the abortion.

Some sources say that surgical aspiration is more likely to be successful than medical abortion, but more research is needed to confirm that.


Depending on a number of factors, including your location, surgical abortion can cost between $500 and $2,000.

The procedure will cost more the further along you are in your pregnancies.

Access and legality

The legality of abortion varies from state to state, especially since many states have rushed to restrict or ban surgical abortion procedures following the fall of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

After you have reached a point of pregnancy where the fetus could be considered viable or able to live outside the uterus, there are limitations on surgical abortion.

Other states impose unnecessary and harmful restrictions on abortion. Some require providers to give false information about abortion safety before allowing you to have an abortion.

These restrictions are meant to discourage you from making your own decisions. They are not based on evidence and contribute to anti-abortion stigma.

Experiencing stigma or judgment is associated with poorer mental and emotional health outcomes for those seeking an abortion.

One way to avoid some of the hurdles is to self-manage a medical abortion at home, so you may want to consider these factors when deciding what type of abortion is best for you.

You can learn about the legality of abortion in each state.

Watch out for crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs)

Some of the healthcare services that are offered by some of the CPCs are limited, and they do not provide abortions or support access to abortions.

People are shamed and misled into believing that abortion is harmful.

The Crisis Pregnancy Center Map can help you steer clear of these predatory groups. You can also check ReproAction’s Fake Clinic Database and the #ExposeFakeClinics resource hub.

Learn how to identify, avoid, and leave CPCs.

In the US, late-term abortions are rare.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just 6.2% of abortions in 2019 happened at 14–20 weeks’ gestation. Fewer than 1% of all U.S. abortions were performed at 21 weeks or later.

People most commonly opt for abortions later in pregnancy if they’ve learned of severe health complications affecting the fetus, developed severe health complications themselves, or were denied an abortion earlier on.

If you need an abortion later in pregnancy, you’ll likely have a D&E procedure. It may take place over 2 days and require multiple visits to a provider. You will probably receive general anesthesia.

Complications are rare and later-term abortions are considered safe and effective with no risk of affecting your future fertility.

There is more information about later-term abortions.

Complications are extremely rare for all types of abortion, but they can happen. The major concerns are infection, excessive There was bleeding. or hemorrhage, organ perforation during surgery, or an incomplete abortion.

If you want to have an abortion, you should contact a medical professional.

  • experience no There was bleeding. at all within 24 hours of taking misoprostol
  • have extremely heavy There was bleeding., which is defined as 1) There was bleeding. through 2 or more regular maxi pads in an hour for 2 or more hours in a row or 2) soaking through 1 or more regular pads in an hour for 3 or more hours in a row
  • Pass vaginal discharge that is foul smelling.
  • Blood clot larger than a lemon.
  • You can run a high temperature of 100.4oF.
  • “Take over-the-counter or prescription pain medication for pain that doesn’t decrease.”
  • After taking misoprostol, you can experience nausea, vomiting, and even a case of scurvy.
  • See, feel, or experience any symptoms like chest pain or a brief loss of breath.

“Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, reach out to a healthcare professional.”

Seek care

If you think you are experiencing problems, you should still seek medical care.

“You don’t have to tell healthcare professionals that you used pills to have an abortion, and healthcare professionals can’t distinguish between a medication abortion and an unintentional miscarriage.”

You can say that you’re experiencing heavy menstrual There was bleeding. or suspect that you’re having a miscarriage. These conditions are treated the same way.

There are many factors to consider when choosing which type of abortion to have.

  • How long you’ve been pregnant: Some forms of abortion are safer and more effective earlier in pregnancy and should be avoided later on. Medication abortions are often reserved for earlier abortions, while surgeries are needed later. The duration of your pregnancy may also affect which method(s) of abortion you can legally access where you live.
  • Accessibility: Many states restrict or outlaw some forms of abortion or impose unnecessary and stressful hurdles — especially now, following the end of Roe v. Wade. Be sure to know the laws in your area and prioritize your privacy if you live somewhere that is hostile toward abortion.
  • Costs: Abortion pills generally cost less than in-clinic surgical abortions, though prices can vary based on where you live. You may want or need to opt for a more affordable abortion method. Or, if you have insurance, your plan may only cover some abortion methods.
  • Privacy: Many people prefer to use abortion pills in the privacy of their own homes or among their personal support systems. But if you don’t live with people who support your abortion choice, you might prefer to have the procedure in a clinic to better protect your privacy.
  • Trust in the medical system: For many people, especially members of marginalized communities, ordering pills and self-managing an abortion at home may be more appealing than engaging with the medical system. Other people may not feel confident self-managing a procedure and would feel better in a sterile clinical setting with experienced professionals around, and that’s OK, too.

“The risk of abortion-related problems is low for any method and doesn’t vary much by type. The risk increases with time, based on how long you have been pregnant.”

However, surgical abortions are likely associated with a higher risk of infection, while medical abortions may cause more There was bleeding. over a longer period of time.

The chart shows the differences between the types of abortion.

Mifepristone and misoprostol Misoprostol only Vacuum aspiration Dilation and evacuation
Type Medical (2 medications) Medical (1 medication) Surgical (5–10 minutes plus waiting periods) Surgical (30 minutes plus waiting periods and medications)
Timeline Up to 10–12 weeks of pregnancy Up to 10–12 weeks of pregnancy Up to 16 weeks of pregnancy Up to 24 weeks of pregnancy
Effectiveness 95–99% About 78% About 98% About 98%
Accessibility and legality Available in-clinic or online without a provider’s prescription; may be legally challenging in some states Available in-clinic or online without a provider’s prescription; more likely to be legally protected in the long term Restricted or banned in many states, with more likely to follow Restricted or banned in many states, with more likely to follow
Medical limitations Not safe for people with IUDs or certain medical conditions Not safe for people with IUDs or certain medical conditions No medical limitations No medical limitations
Privacy Can be done safely and effectively at home without the aid of a clinician Can be done safely and effectively at home without the aid of a clinician Must be done in person at a clinic or hospital Must be done in person at a clinic or hospital

It can be difficult to find abortion information online. So can travel, costs, and legality. It can be difficult to decide whether an abortion is right for you.

Every step of the abortion process is available for support.

Guidance on your options, help with finding a provider, and assistance with covering the costs of an abortion can be offered by several U.S. organizations.

Finding an abortion provider

If you’re unsure where to start, consider reaching out to the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic, which you can find here.

The staff at the clinic can help you make a decision.

They can provide you with discreet, lower-cost services if you decide to have an abortion.

Other options include and the National Abortion Federation’s U.S. Abortion Clinic Locator. These sites can help you find a local or independent abortion clinic.

The National Abortion Federation also operates a hotline that can help you find an abortion provider or financial support for your abortion.

Paying for an abortion

If you have an insurance plan that covers abortion, you should ask your provider if you can have one.

Many communities have abortion funds. You can get help paying for your abortion from these organizations.

You can contact some abortion funds for help.

The above list is far from complete, as many local and regional communities have abortion funds. The National Network of Abortion Funds can connect you with organizations serving your area.

Where to get help outside the United States

The availability of abortion varies by country.

The Center for Reproductive Rights offers more information on abortion laws worldwide, along with a map you can use to check the abortion laws in your country.

If you live in Canada, you can call the National Abortion Federation hotline to get a referral to a nearby clinic.

If you live in the United Kingdom, British Pregnancy Advisory Services can give you more information about abortion. They provide abortion services and support to international patients.

Abortion isn’t associated with poor mental health outcomes long term. In fact, people who have had abortions are no more likely to experience mental health challenges than people who have not had abortions.

It is natural to feel intense and mixed emotions.

If you are struggling with your emotional health, you can speak with an abortion-informed mental health professional or join a support group.

Other resources that can help include Exhale and All-Options, which can connect you with unbiased, nonjudgmental post-abortion emotional support.

Finding support for mental and emotional health

If you need to talk with someone right away, help is available:

The types of abortion are medical and surgical.

A medical abortion involves taking a few pills that cause your uterus to empty. You can either order them yourself or take them to a clinic.

Up to 10 weeks of pregnancy is when medical abortion is approved.

There are two main types of surgical abortion: vacuum aspiration and dilation and evacuation (D&E). These will be performed by trained professionals in a clinic or hospital.

Vacuum aspiration is quicker and can be accessed up to 16 weeks of pregnancy, while D&E is used up to 24 weeks.

It can be difficult to decide which method is best for you. It is even harder to know what is accessible in your area because of legal restrictions.

You will need to consider how long you have been pregnant, what abortion laws are, and your budget.

If you are having trouble finding a provider, paying for an abortion or managing your emotional health during the abortion process, there are resources available.

Rose Thorne is an associate editor at Healthline Nutrition. A 2021 graduate of Mercer University with a degree in journalism and women’s & gender studies, Rose has bylines for Business Insider, The Washington Post, The Lily, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and more. Rose’s proudest professional accomplishments include being a college newspaper editor-in-chief and working at Fair Fight Action, the national voting rights organization. Rose covers the intersections of gender, sexuality, and health, and is a member of The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists and the Trans Journalists Association. You can find Rose on Twitter.