Is Abortion Another Form of Contraception?

Discussing abortion and contraception with doctor

Although some people may give different answers to the question "Is abortion another form of contraception?," the simple answer is "no."

What Is Contraception?

The goal of contraception is to prevent conception and pregnancy. There are several methods available:

  • Birth control pills: The standard approach for many adult women, taking the daily birth control pill prevents a woman from releasing an egg each month. No egg means no fertilization. This method is more than 99 percent effective when used correctly and consistently each month.
  • Condoms: This barrier method stops sperm from entering the vagina. It is highly effective, but is subject to user error.
  • IUDs: A longer-term technique used by woman to prevent pregnancy, this small t-shaped device is inserted by a doctor and can remain in for several years.
  • Patches, shots, and implants: Similar to the birth control pill in how they work, these are hormone-based methods that prevent a woman from ovulating.
  • Permanent sterilization: For people who already have children or do not want them at all, permanent sterilization in the form of a tubal ligation is available for women. Men can have a vasectomy.

It's important to remember that no form of birth control is 100 percent effective. Other medications, human error, or manufacturer's defects can all compromise the effectiveness. When birth control fails, some woman may consider having an abortion to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Abortion Defined

Abortion is a medical procedure that terminates a pregnancy once it has already started. There are two common methods of abortion:

  • Medical abortion: Performed in the first seven weeks after conception, a medical abortion uses a pill that prevents the embryo from growing. A second pill is taken that causes the uterus to contract and shed its lining and tissue, similar to a heavy period.
  • Surgical abortion: This outpatient procedure can be performed up to about 20 weeks of gestation or later in some cases. Using local anesthesia, the doctor removes the tissue with a small vacuum-like instrument.

Is Abortion Another Form of Contraception?

Although some people may wonder "Is abortion another form of contraception?", it's not. Abortion stops a pregnancy that has already started, while contraception prevents a pregnancy from happening in the first place.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that studies and advances reproductive health, one in three American women will have an abortion. Of those, more than half of them were using some form of contraception when they conceived. Almost half were using condoms and two-thirds were on the pill.

Most women do not rely on abortion as a means of controlling the size of their family. Usually, abortion is chosen by women who already made the choice not to have a child at that time but for whom their birth control method failed.

The Morning After Pill

The classification of the morning after pill, also known as Plan B, is widely debated by people who believe that it causes an abortion. The pill, which is taken within 48 hours after having unprotected sex, prevents a pregnancy by blocking ovulation or preventing an already ovulated egg from implanting in the uterus. If a pregnancy has already been established and the egg has implanted, the morning after pill should have no effect on it.

Some people who wonder "is abortion another form of contraception" believe that the morning after pill causes an abortion since the egg may already be fertilized, but not yet implanted, when the pills are taken. This is open to debate since there is no way to know whether the egg has actually been fertilized when the Plan B is taken.

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Is Abortion Another Form of Contraception?