Risks of Abortion

Serious problems with legal abortions are rare. The risk of a woman dying from a legal abortion is very slight. The abortion method used, the length of the pregnancy, and the age of the woman affect this risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2002 data, the death rate of women having legal abortions was 0.7 abortion-related deaths per 100,000 legal induced abortions. Data from 2006-2008 suggest the death rate from abortions is even lower than 0.7. According to the CDC Pregnancy Mortality System in 2010, the most recent year for which data was available, 10 women were identified to have died as a result of complications from legal induced abortions.  However, the CDC has not published a death rate since 2003.From 2006-2008, 7 deaths that were in some way connected to a legal abortion were reported by the CDC. However, CDC has not published a death rate since 2002.

Some women may experience temporary feelings of sadness or stress when making the decision to terminate a pregnancy.  However, women who have chosen to have an abortion experience about the same mental and emotional health as women who have not had an abortion and women who carry an unplanned pregnancy to term.  Pre-existing mental health and life circumstances are more influential on mental health after abortion than the abortion itself.

When Performed During the First Three Months

Abortions performed during the first three months of pregnancy are safer and easier than those performed after the first three months. There may be some minor discomfort, either during a surgical abortion or medication abortion, much like menstrual cramps.

When Performed During the Second Three Months

Abortions performed during the second three months of pregnancy are more complicated than those during the first trimester. While they are still safe, there is a greater chance of problems following a second trimester abortion that there is with a first trimester abortion. Most women experience some discomfort during the procedure and have some cramping afterwards.

After a First or Second Trimester Procedure

On rare occasions a woman may experience some problems following an abortion. These may include:

  • An incomplete abortion, which may require the woman to have a surgical abortion
  • An infection in the female reproductive organs
  • Heavy bleeding, or
  • Damage to the uterus or cervix

It is important to contact your healthcare provider if you:

  • Start to run a fever
  • Experience severe pain or tenderness in your pelvic area, lower abdomen, and/or lower back
  • Experience very heavy vaginal bleeding, or
  • Notice a very bad odor from your vagina.

Your healthcare provider will explain:

  • The risks of the type of abortion you choose
  • Possible problems you may experience during and after the abortion
  • When you should call or come back to the clinic if you experience problems after the abortion

Third Trimester (Late) Abortions

In the last three months of pregnancy, an abortion is done only to save the life or health of the woman. According to South Carolina law, in the last three months of pregnancy, an abortion is done only with the pregnant woman's consent.

If she is married, her husband must also consent.

It must be done only in a certified hospital.

Also, the woman's physician and a second physician must state in writing that the abortion is needed based on their best medical judgment to save the life or health of the woman. The second physician cannot be related to or work in private practice with the woman's physician.

In case of an abortion to preserve the woman's mental health, this reason must also be stated in writing by a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist cannot be related to or work in private practice with the woman's physician.

Late abortions performed in South Carolina are rare.


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