Health Questions
On Abortion


I am doing a debate in school on abortion. I, personally, am pro-choice, but I will not know what side I am arguing until the day of. I was wondering if you could answer a few questions? Thank you so much. I plan to get a message across in this debate and hopefully you can help me.
Nicole, Illinois, age 17

1. What percent of abortions occur in the first trimester?

Questions are welcome!!
88-89% -- it used to be 90% but has gone down just slightly in the last 4-5 years which could be due to the difficulty some women have in finding an abortion provider (86% of counties now do not have a provider. 1/3 of major cities do not either) or due to the barriers that are constantly being placed between women and termination of pregnancy (barriers such as parental consent requirements, state imposed mandatory waiting periods of 24-48 hours, lack of funding for Medicaid-eligible low-income women).

95% of all abortions take place in the first 15 weeks.

For more statistics, contact Alan Guttmacher Institute.

2. When does a fetus actually become a living creature with feelings and movement?

There is no way to know when "feelings" occur. Probably sensation develops around the 28-30 week of fetal development when the spinal cord and all the nerves become well-enough developed.

Movement is usually first felt by pregnant women during the 4th or 5th month of pregnancy. In the old days, they called it "quickening."

The fetus is alive from the very beginning. Even before fertilization, the egg and sperm are living cells before they merge. Scientists use implantation as the beginning of pregnancy, when the fertilized ovum implants into the wall of the uterus. This is also what causes the hormone changes in the women's body to become measurable and a pregnancy test becomes positive.

Noted scientist Carl Sagan suggested that characteristically human brain waves might be a useful measurement. Uniquely human brain waves are measurable and they begin at about 30 weeks. Before that the human fetus is certainly alive, but not differentiated from other living creatures by the uniquely human capability of thought.

3. Do you have any stories of women who, back when abortion was illegal, tried to perform their own and have gotten hurt?

Yes. Infection was the most common problem. When women inserted something that was not sterile into their cervix, it would cause an infection that would cause a miscarriage. Unfortunately, too often, the uterine wall was perforated (punctured) by the knitting needle or coat-hanger or whatever. Before 1973 hospital wards were filled with women dying or seriously ill from the infections of illegal, back-alley abortion. Far too many women died.

This is still true today in parts of the world where abortion is illegal or unavailable. Worldwide, today, 75-100,000 women die each year from unsafe abortion.

NARAL and WA NARAL have books of women's pre-legalization stories.

4. Do you have any other information for me?


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