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Girls are targeted for sex-selective abortion in Canada and around the world. Learn more.

Abortion Complications

Many people are unaware of the physical and psychological side effects that an abortion procedure has on both men and women; it can take someone years to fully recover from this traumatic event.

A study of induced abortions in Ontario compared over 40,000 women who had undergone induced abortions to a similar number of women who hadn't. Three months after the abortion, women were found to have a more than four times higher rate of hospitalizations due to infections and a five times higher rate of "surgical events" (1)

At least 4.5% of women experience short term physical complications following an abortion. For women between the ages of 15-19, the rate of complications increases to 5.2%. (2)

In addition, there are long term effects that can occur after just one abortion and negatively impact women's future health and fertility.

Note: Abortions are performed in both hospitals and clinics, however, only hospitals are required to report statistics on abortion. Because of this missing data, it is possible that the true rate of abortion complications is actually higher.


Short-Term Physical Complications

Failed Abortion

A failed abortion occurs when an unborn child continues to survive or is not fully removed from the uterus, requiring a second procedure. A study completed in Finland revealed that there is a 6.7% risk of having a failed abortion during a medical abortion procedure and a 1.6% risk of having a failed abortion during a surgical evacuation. (3)

Uterine Perforation

Uterine perforation is a rip or tear in the uterine wall. There is a 0.1-0.4% chance that women may experience this complication following an abortion. (4) It often goes undetected and, if not treated properly, may lead to infection or scarring within the uterus which can affect the implantation of an embryo in future pregnancies.

Septic Shock

Septic shock is a serious complication of infection. Factors that can contribute to the onset of sepsis include an incomplete abortion and bacteria introduced into the uterus during an abortion. Sepsis occurs when an infection enters the bloodstream and can lead to a dramatic drop in blood pressure and heart, respiratory, or organ failure. This life-threatening complication is responsible for 30% of abortion-related deaths. (5)




Two months into her pregnancy Josiah's mother decided to have a surgical abortion to end her pregnancy due to financial reasons. A few months after the procedure, Josiah's mother realized the abortion had failed and she was still pregnant. She decided to carry the baby to term and Josiah was born on October 7th, 1995. His left arm is deformed, most likely as a result of the abortion procedure. He was adopted by an American family and is currently travelling and sharing his amazing story.

Hemorrhage (an excessive amount of bleeding) can be caused by failure of the uterus to contract after an abortion, retained fetal tissue, cervical lacerations or uterine perforation. There is a 2.1% chance that this can occur after surgical abortion and a 15.6% chance for medical abortion. (6)


Long-Term Physical Complications

Ectopic Pregnancy

Women who have had one or more abortions are at a greater risk of experiencing ectopic pregnancies in the future. Ectopic pregnancies occur when the embryo implants outside of the uterus, either in the fallopian tubes, cervix, ovaries or abdomen. This can occur due to the presence of scar tissue from a previous abortion procedure. Women also have a 20-40% chance of becoming infertile following an ectopic pregnancy. (7)

Placenta Previa

Placenta previa occurs when the placenta implants very low in the uterus, partially or completely covering the cervix. This can be a result of uterine damage or scarring caused by a previous abortion. Placenta previa can cause fetal malformation, perinatal death and excessive bleeding during labour. It can also increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. A review of eight American studies revealed a 50% increased risk of placenta previa after an abortion. (8)


Miscarriage is defined as the spontaneous end of a pregnancy, generally in the first trimester. Minor trauma caused to the uterus by an abortion might delay the implantation of the embryo and cause a miscarriage. Although further research is needed, some studies have shown a significant correlation between abortions and miscarriages. (9)

Preterm Birth

An abortion procedure can weaken the cervix and cause it to dilate prematurely during a future pregnancy, leading to a preterm birth. According to a Canadian study, the risk increase ranges from 45 to 117 percent. (10) The effect is more pronounced in women who have had multiple abortions. (11)


Research has shown that 7% of couples experience infertility. Complications from abortions that can lead to infertility include PID, uterine perforation causing scar tissue, uterine adhesions and retained fetal fragments. Abortion has a huge effect on infertility: 10-12% of women who receive infertility treatment have experienced one or more induced abortions. (12)

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs that occurs when bacteria from the vagina or cervix enters the uterus. Women have a 5-10% risk of developing this disease following an abortion. (13)


Women who have a sexually transmitted infection are at an even higher risk of contracting this disease; when a woman has chlamydia and proceeds to have an abortion she has a 63% chance of getting PID. (14) Most women are not aware that they have chlamydia, as it often does not present with any symptoms. (15) Despite this fact, abortion clinics are not required to test for STIs prior to an abortion.


Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can lead to an increased risk of future ectopic pregnancies and infertility due to scarring within the reproductive organs. (16)

Learn More: HealthLink BC: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Breast Cancer

When conception occurs, hormonal changes influence the breast to produce milk. During this growth period breast cells are immature or "undifferentiated" which makes them more susceptible to carcinogens (agents that cause cancer). When a woman completes her first full term pregnancy, hormonal changes occur permanently altering their breasts, greatly reducing the risk of developing cancer cells. When a woman terminates her pregnancy within the first trimester, the dividing cells within a women's breast are left in a transitional state. At this point the risk of developing cancer cells is highest. (17) A research paper completed in China stated that one abortion increases breast cancer risk by 150%. (18)

Learn More: Breast Cancer Prevention Institute | | Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer | Abortion and Breast Cancer: The Link That Won't Go Away

Psychological Effects

Abortion affects not only women's physical well-being but also their mental health. Research has shown that there is an increased risk of mental health problems after experiencing an induced abortion. Common mental health problems that many women struggle with following an abortion include: anxiety, depression, alcohol/drug abuse, PTSD and suicide.

A study of Ontario women found that women who have had abortions are almost five times more likely to be hospitalized due to psychiatric problems, compared to women who have not had an abortion. (19)

Source: Lanfranchi, Gentles and Cassidy, "Depression, Suicide, Substance Abuse: Contested Research." Chap. 18 in Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women, 2013: 274.

“...Women with negative experiences find themselves in a difficult place. They suffer from the pain of their abortion, all the while living in a society that tells them that pain isn't real...”

Christina Martin, Live Action News. (The devastating reality of Post Abortion Stress Syndrome)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a mental illness that is caused by experiencing a psychologically traumatic event. There are three different levels or stages of PTSD:

  1. Re-experiencing the event in your mind.

  2. Avoidance and emotional numbing

  3. Sleep deprivation and increased alertness


A study found that 19% of women who had undergone abortions suffered from PTSD. (20)

Learn More: Psychological Health Effects: | Abortion Risks - Psychological:

  1. Ostbye T, Wenghofer EF, Woodward CA, Gold G, Craighead J. Health services utilization after induced abortions in Ontario: A comparison between community clinics and hospitals. American Journal of Medical Quality 2001 May; 6(3):99-106.

  2. Sheila Dunn, et al. "Reproductive and Gynaecological Health." Chapter 10 in Ontario Women's Health Equity Report. Toronto; 2011. 90. (

  3. Niinimaki M, Pouta A, Bloigu A, et al. Immediate complications after medical compared with surgical termination of pregnancy. Obstetrics & Gynecology 2009 October; 114(4): 795-804.

  4. Lanfranchi, Gentles and Cassidy, "Physical Complications: Injury, Miscarriage, Placenta Previa," Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women, 2013: 184.

  5. Achilles SL and Reeves MF. Prevention of infection after induced abortion: release date October 2010 SFP Guideline 2012. Contraception 2012; 83(4): 295-309.

  6. Niinimaki, Pouta, Bloigu, et al. 2009. (See note 3.)

  7. Tharaux-Deneux C, Bouyer J, Job-Spira N, Coste J and Spira A. Risk of ectopic pregnancy and previous induced abortion. American Journal of Public Health 1998; 88(3): 401-5.

  8. Faiz AS and Ananth CV. Etiology and risk factors for placenta previa: an overview and meta-analysis of observational studies. Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine 2003;13: 175-90.

  9. Lanfranchi, Gentles and Cassidy, "Physical Complications: Infection and Infertility," Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women, 2013: 188.

  10. Hardy G, Benjamin A, Abenhaim HA. Effect of induced abortions on early preterm births and adverse perinatal outcomes. JOGC 2013 February; 35(2): 138-43, Table 2, p. 141.

  11. Lanfranchi, Gentles and Cassidy, "Premature or preterm births after abortion," Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women, 2013: 236, 243.

  12. Hemminki E, Klemetti R, Sevon T and Gissler M. Induced abortions previous to IVF: an epidemiologic register-based study from Finland. Human Reproduction 2008;23(6):1322.

  13. Penny GC, Thomson M, Norman J, et al. A randomised comparison of strategies for reducing infection complications of induced abortion. BJOG 1998;105(6): 599-604

  14. Chen S, Li J, and Van den Hoek A. Universal screening or prophylactic treatment for chlamydia trachomatis infection among women seeking induced abortions: which strategy is more cost-effective? Sexually Transmitted Diseases 2007; 34(4): 230-6.

  15. Rotermann M, Langlois K, Severini A and Totten S. Prevalence of Chlamydia trachomatis and herpes simplex virus type 2: Results from the 2009 to 2011 Canadian Health Measures Survey. Statistics Canada Health Report (24) 4.

  16. Lanfranchi, Gentles and Cassidy, "Physical Complications: Infection and infertility." Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women, 2013: 173.

  17. Charles B. Simone, M.D., M.M.S., Breast Health: What You Need to Know, Avery Pub. Group, Garden City Park, N.Y. 1995: 147, as cited at

  18. Yanhua C, et al. Reproductive variables and risk of breast malignant and benign tumours in Yunnan Province, China. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention 2012; 13:2179-218.

  19. Ostbye, Wenghofer, Woodward, Gold, and Craighead 2001. (See note 1.)

  20. Barnard C. "The Long-Term Psychological Effects of Abortion." Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Institute for Pregnancy Loss: 1990. As cited by Abortion in Canada, "Psychological Health Effects" (

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