Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Abortion Works


The Future of Abortion
Abortion rights and anti-abortion advocates express opposing viewpoints during a demonstration in Washington, D.C.
Abortion rights and anti-abortion advocates express opposing viewpoints during a demonstration in Washington, D.C.
Associated Press/Joe Marquette

­It's impossible to know what the future will hold for the legality of abortion. Anti-abortion groups remain convinced that a fetus is a viable person with the same legal rights as a newborn infant, while abortion rights groups believe that a woman should be able to make decisions about her body without governmental interference.

However, abortion is such a controversial topic that it already affects our medical providers. The generation of doctors that saw women suffering in the aftermath of an illegal, unsafe abortion is now mostly retired from medical practice. In their place is a generation that saw abortion clinics bombed or abortion providers shot in their own homes. In fact, abortion training is not covered at many medical schools or in many hospital residencies unless the student asks for the opportunity to learn [source: Meisol]. Already, there are shortages of medical professionals that can perform the procedure in many areas. Some medical professionals exercise a right of conscience and refuse to do the procedure for personal reasons.

If abortion were to be outlawed or largely unavailable due to a lack of providers, it seems unlikely that we would return to the days of coat hangers. Rather, some doctors think women will turn to the same abortifacients that are used in medical abortions today [source: Leland]. When misoprostol is used as part of a medical abortion, that actually constitutes an off-label use; the drug was approved by the FDA for treatment of ulcers and is more commonly known as Cytotec. The drug isn't intended to be used in doses necessary to induce an abortion, so its safety hasn't been widely tested for that purpose. It's also not as effective without the prior dosage of mifepristone, and it could lead to severe birth defects. It is, however, cheap, and is already used in many countries and communities where abortion is illegal or considered immoral [sources: Lee, Buckley; Leland].

For more on women's health issues, please see the links on the next page.


More to Explore