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The medical definition of abortion describes it as the deliberate termination of fetal development. Fathalla (2020) states that abortion has gradually grown safer as new medical breakthroughs in the procedure are discovered. Nevertheless, like any other medical procedure, abortion could have serious risks and side effects on women. Therefore, it is not true that abortion is dangerous to women; however, caution must be taken to ensure that the risks posed by the procedure are thwarted and its side effects managed effectively to lower any chances of negative impacts on the woman’s health.
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Abortion Safety based on Pregnancy Duration and Procedure Standards
One of the factors that significantly influence the safety of an abortion is the duration of a pregnancy. The lower the duration, the safer the abortion procedure. As such, the WHO advices women to consider having an abortion early in the onset of a pregnancy to ensure a successful and safe procedure (World Health Organization, 2021). The biggest threat to women’s health, the WHO warns, is not abortion itself. Inaccessibility to affordable, prompt, and respectful abortion care threatens women’s health all around the world. According to the WHO (2021), the inability to access quality abortion care violates human rights tenets such as the right to high standards of mental and physical health, the right to plan the spacing and number of children, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, and the right to life, among others. Abortion that is easily accessible significantly reduces the risks associated with the procedure as an individual is empowered to seek professional help early in the pregnancy’s duration.
Most health institutions and researchers on abortion have outlined a set of methods that are certified to make abortion safe for women. When such standards are tightly enforced, abortion is guaranteed to be a safe procedure (Gbagbo, 2018). The primary standard to a safe abortion is to have the patient undergo regular pre-abortion ultrasound screening. This aspect ensures that an abortion procedure is not carried out on an ectopic or non-existent pregnancy. Resultantly, the risks associated with conducting abortion on an ectopic pregnancy are reduced by simply requiring such pre-abortion ultrasound screenings prior to any procedure (Atakro et al., 2019). Another standard is to have doctors prescribe antibiotics to women post-abortion. Some abortion pills such as misoprostol have been linked with post-abortion infections, which when left untreated, could be life threatening. Similarly, untreated STIs could pose serious health risks to the patient, thus, antibiotics prescription after an abortion is considered critically important to safeguard the patient’s health (Chescheir, 2017). These standards help to reduce risks associated with abortion and make the procedure safer for women.
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Link between Abortion Restrictions, Complications, and Unsafe Abortions
Restrictions placed on abortion do not reduce the numbers of abortion procedures. Instead, they augment the quantity of unsafe abortions, which are known to have some significant negative impacts on women’s health. The WHO estimates that 45% of all abortions are considered unsafe, a majority (97%) of which are undertaken in developing countries (WHO, 2021). The main reason unsafe abortions are predominantly associated with developing countries is because such procedures are conducted by untrained individuals. Most developing countries have restricted policies and legal frameworks that outlaw abortion of any kind. This aspect creates an avenue for untrained and unlicensed individuals to conduct such procedures on desperate patients (Chescheir, 2017). The WHO (2021) reports that unsafe abortions are the leading cause of maternal deaths due to the low-quality standards and limited accountability associated with such procedures. The best way to guarantee safe abortion for women is to legalize, adequately train, and license abortion doctors to operate in developing countries.
Critics may argue that abortion is often characterized by serious complications. As such, they believe it is dangerous to women. Indeed, abortion side-effects and complications can make the process unsafe. However, managing these aspects of the procedure with efficiency is the only way to ensure women lives are not endangered post-abortion (Atakro et al., 2019). Some of the complications, which include heavy bleeding, incomplete abortion, perforation of the uterus, and organ damage, among others, can be prevented with adequate training of physicians (National Health Service, 2017). Additionally, licensing abortion clinics and allowing them to operate under close government scrutiny would increase their safety. The affordability aspect should also be considered when making abortion clinics easily accessible (NHS, 2017). Most women tend to seek abortion services from unlicensed clinics due to costs associated with the procedure. This may expose them to the dangers associated with unsafe abortions (Atakro et al., 2019). Health centers should avail a comprehensive abortion care package at an affordable cost to protect women from unsafe abortions (Gbagbo, 2018; Atakro et al., 2019). All governments should also avail contraceptives to all women above the age of eighteen to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce abortion-related risks to women’s health.
Abortion is not dangerous to women. When specific measures are put in place, abortion is guaranteed to be a safe procedure. Most scientific breakthroughs have given way to safe abortion standards that augment the chances of successful abortions. Future research should now focus on ways to legitimize and standardize it across the world to ensure women undergoing the abortion procedure are safe and experience minimal side effects.
- Atakro, C. A., Addo, S. B., Aboagye, J. S., Menlah, A., Garti, I., Amoa-Gyarteng, K. G., Sarpong, T., Adatara, P., Kumah, K. J., Asare, B. B., Mensah, A. K., Lutterodt, S. H., & Boni, G. S. (2019). Contributing factors to unsafe abortion practices among women of reproductive age at selected district hospitals in the Ashanti region of Ghana. BMC Women’s Health, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-019-0759-5
- Chescheir, N. C. (2017). Worldwide abortion rates and access to contraception. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 129(5), 783-785. https://doi.org/10.1097/aog.0000000000002028
- Fathalla, M. F. (2020). Safe abortion: The public health rationale. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 63, 2-12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2019.03.010
- Gbagbo, F. Y. (2018). Post abortion contraception model: A comprehensive package for improving safe abortion care in developing countries. Journal of Family Medicine, 1(1), 12-21. https://doi.org/10.14302/issn.2640-690x.jfm-18-2088
- National Health Service. (2017, October 18). Abortion – Risks. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/abortion/risks/
- World Health Organization. (2021, November 25). Abortion. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abortion