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How Abortions Work

If you or someone you care about is facing an unintended pregnancy and trying to figure out what to do, you may be wondering about how abortions work.

An unplanned pregnancy can have far-reaching impact for all those involved. It’s important to have accurate information about what happens and how abortions work. Avenue Women’s Center can help with that information. We are here to support you through this difficult time. Please contact us for a free, confidential consultation with one of our trained, nonjudgmental staff members.

Here is some basic information about how abortions work which we hope will be helpful to you. There are two main types or procedures used for abortion: Medication abortion and surgical abortion.

Medication abortion

  • Medication abortion, which utilizes the “abortion pill” RU-486, has been approved for up to 70 days (10 weeks) of pregnancy.
  • Accurate dating of the pregnancy must be confirmed by ultrasound.
  • Two separate pills are taken: one stops the pregnancy from growing; the second, typically taken two days later, causes cramping and bleeding so the contents of the uterus are expelled.

Surgical abortion

  • Surgical abortions make up the majority of abortions done in the United States.
  • The cervix is stretched or widened, and the contents of the uterus are removed by a manual suction device or a suction machine.
  • Between 7 and 13 weeks of the pregnancy, surgical abortion also utilizes a curette to scrape the walls of the uterus.
  • Past the second trimester, the curette and forceps are used to remove the pregnancy.

Any abortion procedure should be done only through a qualified medical provider.

This may help with your most basic questions about how abortions work. Perhaps this information raises additional questions for you as well: What are some risks involved? What can most women expect after an abortion? What is my best balance between protecting my privacy and including others in my process? Are there other questions I should ask that I haven’t thought of yet?

To work through your questions with a caring professional can empower you to move forward as strongly as possible. We at Avenue Women’s Center are committed to walk with you through this time. We know how beneficial it is to talk with someone a bit removed from the situation. We are here to assist women as they set their best, well-thought-out course of action. Our offices are located in Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn / Lombard, Naperville, West Chicago, and Wood Dale, Illinois. We invite you to call or text us today. We’re waiting for your call.


  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). (2015, May). Induced Abortion. Retrieved from:
  • American Pregnancy Association. (2018, June). Abortion Pill. Retrieved from:

The information provided here is general in nature.  It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center.  If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.