When Is It Too Late To Perform An Abortion?


There are reasons as to why a woman may seek to terminate a pregnancy, but it is never a simple decision to make. Anyone finding themselves in such a situation has a lot to think about regarding their health and well-being. The most crucial question is: when is it too late to get an abortion?

If you are seeking to get rid of your pregnancy, there are a couple of things you need to look at before approaching a doctor. There are:

  • 4 things to think about before aborting a baby
  • Deciding to abort
  • Abortion procedures in the first, second and third trimesters
  • Risks of having a late-term abortion

[Read more: Spontaneous Abortion]

4 Things to Think About Before Deciding to Abort

a. 24 weeks is legally the cut-off line

It is a sensitive subject when determining if abortion is a suitable option past a particular period. Various experts will have different projections towards what is considered as a legal cut off.

Medical practitioners will take into consideration if it is viable to abort given the timeline. The subject of viability dictates that it is dangerous to perform the removal procedure after 24 weeks of gestation which is on the verge of the second trimester.

Between 37-42 weeks, the pregnancy is considered full-term and in some cases, babies have survived after being born as early as 24 weeks. Therefore, those in the medical field will use the 24-week guideline to see if it is a feasible option for the baby to get out and live outside the mother’s womb.

Also, depending on the type of abortion performed, there are cut-off limits to when a particular option is viable as mentioned below:

  • Abortion pills:They fall under the medical abortion category. A doctor can only allow you to take the pills if the pregnancy is not past seven weeks. The medication begins in the clinic where the first medicine is given to kick-start the process and the second taken later at home.
  • Surgical abortion:It is done if the pregnancy is below or at the 14th week in most states where abortion is legal. Some can allow for the procedure as long as it is not beyond the 24th The only time to conduct an abortion after 24 weeks is if the mother is in extreme danger. That means the mother or the unborn life is under a significant threat.
  • Induction:This is viable after the pregnancy is 16 weeks old. The procedure involves an admission of the mother to a hospital where medications are issued to bring in early labor. The fetus is delivered in the process, and the one conducting may also utilize the surgical approach to make sure that nothing remains in the uterus.

b. It is illegal to conduct late term abortion in most places

It depends on where you live, but in most areas including states in the US, late-term abortions are illegal. The one and only exception is if the pregnancy is risking the life of the carrier. According to the medical community, an abortion is late to conduct if it is no longer viable due to the gestation age.

There are cases where the pregnancy is past 24 weeks, and the mother’s life is at risk. At such a point, doctors will choose a preterm delivery instead of a late abortion.

c. There are risks associated with abortion

On one side, there is the viability topic. On the other, there are abortion-related risks which become severe depending on the pregnancy stage and how old is it. The risks include:

  • Hemorrhaging
  • Organ damage
  • Cervix damage
  • Complications with anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Permanent damage to the uterus
  • Death (rare)

The risk of life loss is higher after the 24-week of your pregnancy. According to research, one in every 530,000 conducted procedures dies during the first eight weeks of pregnancy. The risk of death raises to one in every 6000 proceedings at 21 weeks. Also, it depends on where you go for the procedure – in clinics or hospitals.

Early pregnancies make the medical abortion the most suitable option where no surgery is involved. Miscarriage happens at home, but the doctor has to make sure that you are safe to go home. He or she may recommend someone to be with you in case there is a need for medical attention during the period.

To avoid too much risk, one has to meet precise specifications before the medical approach is made. They include:

  • Transportation access
  • Be close to emergency services if severe bleeding occurs
  • Access to a phone
  • Have someone to aid in the process

Due to the precautions mentioned above and the risk, it is essential to perform it carefully and at the right gestation age.

d. You are the one to decide on whether to abort or not

It is never easy to come up with the idea and most likely not what you intended. Furthermore, there are health and life risks to consider which means that the decision is entirely yours to make.

It is possible for you to feel as if it is not the right thing to do, but you might bend to family and friends pressure. Just make sure that what you decide will not make you regret later in life.

Also, ensure that your choice is under the influence of proper medical analysis from a reputable hospital or clinic that is deemed safe for abortion procedures.

Making the Decision to Abort

The first thing to do is visit a doctor. At this point, a proven safety record is necessary when attending the hospital or clinic.

What the doctor will do is to determine the age of your pregnancy by carefully taking note of the dates and performing an ultrasound. Upon the gestation age determination, the specialist will see if it is within the legal time frame.

If it is viable to conduct the abortion procedure, the following happens:

  • Parents are involved in providing the go ahead in case you are a minor
  • Access to medical history
  • You will be examined physically to see if you are fit to withstand the procedure
  • Performing various laboratory tests.
  • To verify the risks, the doctor will perform an interrogation on how you feel about the available option.
  • Provision of information and a 24-hour wait period.
  • The signing of forms to allow the procedure.

The doctor will then decide which of the available methods is right depending on the pregnancy dates provided.

Before moving ahead, here are some things you need to ponder:

  • The question that many still ask is if life begins in the womb are after delivery. Reports show that the heart starts to pound at week 5 of the pregnancy. Waiting longer may make you feel guiltier especially if you know there is a heart beating.
  • Between the 13thand 20th week, the baby is bound to start moving. Also known as ‘quickening,’ you might feel it as early as from week 13, and it might bring in more attachment between you and the baby. Waiting longer will make it difficult for you to abort once you start feeling the movements inside you.
  • Some cases arise where babies born after the 20thweek come out alive. Reports have shown some rare instances of fetus living after only 24 weeks in the mother’s womb. Be aware that it has happened though not often.
  • For the early pregnancies that allow for medical abortion, the doctor will allow you to continue while at home after approving that you are safe to leave the clinic. What you will see are tissues and clots when the materials come out. The earlier the pregnancy, the fewer the materials to pass.

Abortion Procedures Conducted in Various Trimesters

As earlier mentioned, the stage of your pregnancy is what dictates which method will be used to terminate. Before laying out the possibilities, it is essential to get a sonogram first to see if the pregnancy is viable especially for the ectopic pregnancy cases and to get an accurate date.

First-trimester abortion procedures

Most cases are solvable using the medical or surgical approach. For you to qualify for a medical abortion, your pregnancy should be nine weeks old maximum.

Here are the types of procedures suited for the first trimester:

  • Manual Vacuum Aspiration:Abbreviated as MVA, this method is carried out on early pregnancies between the 3rd and 12th week since the last menstrual period. It involves fewer risks since local anesthesia is the only thing to be done on the cervix.
  • Mifepristone and Misoprostol:it is also known as the abortion pill, RU-486, or Mifeprex. This procedure is valid if the pregnancy is between 7-9 weeks old.
  • Methotrexate and Misoprostol:Abbreviated as MTX, this medical abortion method is viable if the pregnancy is not past seven weeks old. In the US, this way is not standard due to the availability of mifepristone which is more efficient when compared to MTX.
  • Aspiration:Also known as dilation and curettage (D&C), suction curettage or vacuum aspiration. It is used to terminate a pregnancy that is 16 weeks old maximum since the last menstrual period.

Second-trimester abortion procedures

Here, medical approaches are ruled out.

The types of proceedings conducted include:

  • Induction:It is a rare move which involves the injection of the amniotic sac with urea, salt water, and potassium chloride. There is also the intravenous injection of Pitocin combined with insertion of prostaglandins in the vagina.
  • Dilation and Curettage:We mentioned it in the first trimester procedures, which is a surgical technique used for up to 16 weeks old pregnancies.
  • Dilation and Evacuation:Abbreviated as D&E, it is a surgical approach used on pregnancies that exceed the 16 week gestation period.

Procedures used in the third trimester

It depends on what the law says about late-term pregnancies and in most states where it is legal, nothing is acceptable past the 24-week ultimatum. Since most of the time is when a medical practitioner will consider if it is viable or not for a late-term procedure, the rules will play a part in the decision making based on where you reside.

Available options for a third-trimester abortion include:

  • Induction:It has the same procedure as projected in the second-trimester section. Practitioners however rarely use it.
  • Dilation and Extraction:It is a surgical approach done if the pregnancy is after 21 weeks old. It is also known as D&X, partial birth abortion, Intrauterine Cranial Decompression or Intact D&X.

Dangers of Having a Late-Term Abortion

Medical practitioners define abortion as the premature exit of conception contents. In states where it is legal to abort after meeting specific constraints, it is not possible to allow abortion after the 21st week of the pregnancy unless the mother’s life is at risk or the baby will have some congenital disabilities among other issues. Every procedure has some potential risks with the degree being higher for the late-term procedures.

Depending on which method to undertake, here is what might happen to you:

Contracting infections

The most common approach to late-term abortion is the use of the D&E technique. The doctor issues some antibiotics to the patient before commencing the procedure to evade the risk of being infected. According to reports, an infection may result from the instruments inserted into the uterus.

Another mode of infection may come from the fetal parts left behind in the process. Practitioners use a metal instrument to remove the uterus inner lining and remove all the contents. Despite all the precautions exercised, there is a possibility of leaving behind some materials.

The dead tissue starts to decay and enter the circulatory system resulting in sepsis. As time goes by, you start feeling dizzy, head and muscle aches, and a general feeling of being ill.


Also known as septicemia, it is a severe condition caused by the decay of materials left behind and your body can respond to clotting and inflammation in various parts. The abortion pill has brought death to some patients due to infection and bleeding. Signs to look out for include acute pain in the abdomen, fever, excessive bleeding and foul smell of the vaginal discharge.

Severe bleeding

It is normal to bleed when conducting an abortion. However, in case a puncture or tear occurs in the uterus, you risk having a hemorrhage. If you experience excessive bleeding that is much more than the heaviest menstrual period that ever happened to you, contact your physician immediately.

Ruptured uterus

In the course of the procedure, the doctor conducting may not be in a position to see the womb. Instruments are inserted into the uterus which means that tearing or perforation is possible. Since the abortion is a late-term one, the unborn is large, and the uterus is thin. If the uterus is torn or perforated, surgery may come in handy to enable closing of the tear. For extreme cases, the last option is to remove the uterus.


  1. The baby’s heart actually starts to beat 22 DAYS after conception, before most women even know they are pregnant. Abortion always stops a beating heart. Consider the greatest gift you could give someone, saving their life. Consider adoption. Babies are worth it. People are worth it.


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