Abortion Background: What the evidence shows

Prevalence and Characteristics

  • About one in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion at some point in her life.1
  • The majority (89%) of abortions occur in the first trimester of pregnancy.2
  • Most people seeking abortion are poor or low-income (75%), are women of color (61%), are in their 20s (72%), report a religious affiliation (62%), and have at least one child (59%).3, 4


  • Over four decades of research indicate that abortion is a very safe outpatient procedure.4, 5
  • Abortion is far safer than childbirth, with mortality fourteen times lower than carrying to term.5
  • The overall abortion complication rate is lower than that of wisdom tooth removal.6 A fraction of one percent of abortions result in a major complication, defined as a complication requiring blood transfusion, surgery, or hospital admission.4, 7
  • Having an abortion is not associated with long-term health concerns;4 instead, being denied a wanted abortion may lead to poor health outcomes.8–10


  • The most common method of abortion is aspiration, a minimally invasive, 10-minute procedure that is also used for miscarriage management.4
  • Another common method of abortion is medication abortion, an FDA-approved regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol pills, which is 95–98% effective and approved for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.11, 12 Medication abortion comprises about one third of all non-hospital abortions in the US.1

Long-Term Effects

  • Having an abortion is not associated with any significant negative physical, emotional, or mental health effects.8, 13-15
  • Being able to obtain a wanted abortion is associated with positive outcomes, including increasing self-esteem and life satisfaction and the ability to achieve aspirational life plans.16, 17
  • Being denied a wanted abortion is associated with negative outcomes, including:
    • Reduced financial security for women and their children9
    • Increased likelihood of staying tethered to violent partners10
    • Poorer bonding with children born as the result of abortion denial18
    • Serious health problems related to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term19
    • Worse physical health five years later, compared to those who were able to obtain a wanted abortion8

Evidence-Based Bottom Line

Abortion is a common, safe, and simple outpatient procedure. Obtaining an abortion does not lead to any physical or mental health problems, and confers benefits over being denied a wanted abortion.

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