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Are chemical abortions safer than surgical abortions?

Both chemical and surgical abortions have their risks, and it is not clear that they are directly comparable.

Promoters of the abortion pill often speak as if RU486/PG abortions are safer because they are earlier abortions. While it is true that earlier surgical abortions are safer than later surgical abortions, owing to the increasing size of the baby and the increasing complexity of the surgical procedure, it isn't clear that early chemical abortions are necessarily safer than later surgical abortions. Because the methods are so different, this is like comparing apples and oranges.

With surgical abortions, a woman faces the risks of cervical lacerations, uterine or bowel perforations, scarring, infection, and even permanent infertility. These risks, due to the surgical process itself, may be avoided in a chemical abortion (provided a woman is not in that 8%-23% for whom the method fails). But the woman undergoing a chemical abortion faces a whole new set of risks, ranging from hemorrhage to heart failure, typically not faced by the surgical patient.

Variations in the severity and frequency of these complications make it difficult to identify one method as safer than another. Significant injury or worse is possible with either method.

Printed with permission from National Right to Life (www.nrlc.org ).

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