What is Abortion?

Parkmed and Abortionpillnyc

What is Abortion?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines abortion as the spontaneous or induced expulsion of an embryo or fetus resulting in or closely followed by its death.


Obviously this is the simplest definition of what has become a complex and contested term in our culture. However, the medical definition remains the same. So whether a fertilized egg passes through a woman’s body naturally and does not properly implant in the uterus, if a pregnancy stops developing properly and passes out of the uterus in a miscarriage, or if after a decision is made the pregnancy is surgically removed an abortion has occurred.

When medical professionals discuss abortion they are primarily discussing the surgical abortion procedure which is performed by Electrical Vacuum Aspiration (EVA). This is primarily done in the first 12 wks of pregnancy using a gentile suction to remove the pregnancy tissue from the woman’s uterus. After 12 weeks of gestation the procedure is usually called a dilation and evacuation / extraction done also with gentile suction. In most cases and under most conditions these procedures no longer involve scraping of the uterine walls the way they once did in the past.

Abortions can also be performed using a series of medications (Mifepristone and Misoprostol) which induce a controlled miscarriage. While this is not considered a ‘non surgical abortion’ it is still an abortion because an embryo is bring expelled from the uterus and ends the pregnancy.

A more complex question is whether the ‘morning after pill’ or Plan B should be considered an abortion. The morning after pill is actually a high dose of the hormone levonorgestrel which is contained in many birth control pills in lower doses. A high dose of levonorgestrel helps keep a woman from ovulating if she has not already done so. It also makes the lining of the uterus less likely to allow a fertilized egg to implant and continue to develop. Most medical professionals do not consider this an abortion because the fertilized egg, if there is one, is a Zygot. A zygote is a group of rapidly dividing cells that forms when a male sperm meets a female egg. It is not considered an embryo until after 2 weeks. Some people still consider the zygot the beginning of life, particularly religious people who believe life begins at conception. For these people the prevention of implantation is also considered an abortion – but this is a religious and cultural opinion – not medical opinions.