The procedure is called a vacuum aspiration, or suction curettage. A speculum (a narrow metal or plastic instrument, shaped like a duck's bill) is inserted into the vagina to hold it open. The cervix (opening to the uterus) is then slowly widened using and instrument called a dilator, which is long, thin and about the size of a pen. It has a number of small arms at the end, that gently open the cervix. A small hollow tube is inserted into the uterus. The tube is attached to a pump and suction is appkied. After the uterus is emptied, a small spoon-like instrument (curette) is inserted into the uterus. The curette is scraped gently around the walls of the uterus to dislodge any remaining tissue. The hollow tube is then reinserted and suction is applied again. The whole procedure takes about ten minutes.

Early abortions are eleven times safer than giving birth. However, as with all surgical procedures complications occasionally arise.

  • Allergic Reactions to specific anesthetics or other medication. Women taking medication or drugs, including recreational drugs, may experience serious reactions to anesthetics.
  • Incomplete Abortions. This occurs in fewer than one in 100 abortions. It may be necessary to repeat the procedure and remove additional tissue. Incomplete abortion can lead to infection, heavy bleeding, or both. In rare cases, surgery is required.
  • Blood clots in uterus. Clots that may cause severe cramping occur in about one in 100 abortions. The clots are usually remved by a repeated suction curettage.
  • Infection by germs from the vagina or cervix that get into the uterus. In many cases, the infection is a flareup of a preexisting sexually transmitted infection. Fewer than one in 100 women who have an abortion become infected. Usually antibiotics are used to clear up the infection. In rare cases, a repeated suction, hospitalization or suregery is required.
  • Heavy bleeding that requires medical treatment. This is rare. Such bleeding may require medication, a repeat suction or dilation and curettage, or, rarely, surgery. Fewer than one in 1000 cases require blood transfusions.
  • A cut or torn cervix. This occurs in fewer than one in 100 early abortions. Stitches are rarely needed to repair the injury.
  • Perforation of the wall of the uterus. In about one in 1000 early abotions, an instrument goes through the wall of the uterus. In even fewer cases, perforation leads to infection, heavy vaginal or abdominal bleeding, or both. Surgery may be necessary to repair the uterine tissue. Very rarely hysterectomy is required.
  • Very rarely, in about six in one million cases, a woman dies from complications arising from legal abortion.

About 2 in 1000 abortions are not successful. This usually occurs when there is more than one fetus or when the pregnancy is ectopic.