The decision to terminate a pregnancy is a very personal one, and a decision that no one should take lightly. Women who find themselves considering an abortion are often between a rock and a hard place. One of the most important questions they ask is: when is it too late to get an abortion?
If you’re considering terminating your pregnancy, there are four important things you need to think about – including the guideline of it, late-term illegality, risks of late abortion could bring and make the decision by yourself.
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1. 24 Weeks Is Generally Considered the Cut-Off Date
Abortion is a sensitive subject, and determining the “cut off” date for pregnancy termination can stir up heated emotions. Medical communities typically take into consideration “viability” when deciding whether it’s too late to have an abortion.
Most medical professionals agree that viability is established at 24 weeks of gestation, which is nearing the end of the second trimester. Pregnancies are considered full-term between weeks 37 and 42, but babies born as early as 24 weeks have survived. Therefore, medical communities use this as a guideline to determine viability, or the ability for the baby to live outside its mother’s womb.
2. Late-Term Abortions are Illegal in Most Cases
In the U.S., and many other countries, late-term abortions are illegal in most states. The only exception to this rule is if the mother’s life is in jeopardy. The medical community defines an abortion as late-term if performed after viability.
Under normal circumstances, abortion is not an option if you’re farther than 24 weeks.
Even in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, doctors will likely perform a preterm delivery rather than an abortion this late in the pregnancy.
3. There are Risks to Aborting a Pregnancy
Aside from the issue of viability, there are also increased risks of abortion as the pregnancy progresses. Risks of a late abortion include:
- Organ damage
- Cervix damage
- Complications with anesthesia
- Permanent damage of the uterus
- Death (rare)
The risk of death increases significantly after you cross the 24-week mark in your pregnancy. In the first 8 weeks, the risks are 1 in every 530,000 procedures. At week 21 and over, the risk increases to 1 in 6,000. Of course, the risks are also dependent on where the procedure is performed: a clinic or a hospital.
If you are very early in your pregnancy, you may be given the option of having a medication abortion, which does not involve any surgical procedures. You will miscarry at home, but the doctor will need to ensure that someone will be there to help you and bring you to a hospital if necessary.
4. The Decision to Abort Should Be Yours
The decision to terminate a pregnancy is not an easy one, and it’s not one that any woman wants to make. But it’s a decision that should be yours – not your family’s, not your friends’. If abortion does not feel like the right solution for you, you may regret your decision to give into pressure from family members or friends.
If you do decide that abortion is the right choice for you, ensure that you choose a reputable clinic or hospital with a proven safety record.