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Abortion (cont.)

Providers

Providers of abortions are generally specialists in women's health such as obstetricians and gynecologists. However, many studies have shown the safety of allowing a variety of other health care professionals (physicians, physician assistants, midwives, and nurse practitioners) to perform these procedures.

Various factors over the years have influenced the number of medical professionals available and trained to perform abortions:

  • Medical student training in this procedure is limited or absent from many programs. Some students may opt not to be trained in the procedure. Pharmacists may decide not to dispense medical abortion medications.
  • Increasing violence against providers and clinics has further decreased their willingness to provide abortion services.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Mifeprex (mifepristone, RU-486), a drug for medical abortions. The lack of abortion providers to perform surgical terminations has led to the popular belief that individuals not willing or not skilled enough (through training or licensure) to perform surgical terminations will be willing to prescribe medications for medical termination.
  • A variety of medical, social, ethical, and philosophical issues affect the availability of and restrictions on abortion services in the United States.

Abortion statistics

In the United States: In 2003, about 16 women for every 1,000 women aged 15-44 years had an abortion, and for every 1,000 live births, about 241 abortions were performed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the past 20 years, considerable progress has been made in the technology used for second-trimester abortion. This and the social issues surrounding abortion have led to more women seeking terminations later in pregnancy.

  • Safety: Legal abortion is a safe procedure. Infection rates are less than one percent, and fewer than 1 in 100,000 deaths occurs from first-trimester abortions. Abortion is safer for the mother than carrying a pregnancy to term. Medical and surgical abortions are both safe and effective when performed by trained practitioners.
  • Race: Most women seeking abortion are white (53%); 36% are black, 8% are of another race, and 3% are of unknown race.
  • Age: Abortion rates are highest among 20- to 24-year-old women. Rates are lowest among women younger than 20 or older than 40 years but these women are far more likely to have an abortion if they become pregnant.
  • In the world: Abortion causes at least 13% of all deaths among pregnant women. New estimates are that 50 million abortions are performed world wide each year, with 30 million of them in developing countries. Approximately 20 million of these are performed unsafely because of conditions or lack of provider training.

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Elective Abortion »

In the United States and worldwide, elective termination of pregnancy remains common.

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