Schedule Today

How Is the Abortion Pill Different Than Surgical Abortion?

Are you facing an unexpected pregnancy today, and feeling like you can’t continue this path?  Maybe you’re starting to look into the different abortion options that may be available to you.  If you’re wondering, “How is the abortion pill different than surgical abortion?”, it sounds like you’re seeking to understand how these alternatives would affect your body from a medical standpoint.  This is a wise question to ask because any kind of abortion (or any other pregnancy option) is bound to have implications for your health.  And your health and safety should always be top of mind when considering your next steps on a pregnancy journey.

At Avenue Women’s Center, we put the wellness of the women who connect with us front and center.  Our limited medical clinics offer free first-step pregnancy services to individuals from our own Chicagoland community and beyond.  These include medical-grade pregnancy tests, options consultations, limited medical ultrasounds, and more!  We’re passionate about providing all the accurate information and caring support women need to feel equipped for their unique paths toward their best pregnancy outcomes.

Learn more about Avenue!  We’ve been making high-quality, confidential pregnancy support available in Chicagoland since 1981!

The Abortion Pill and Surgical Abortion: A Brief Summary

The obvious difference between the abortion pill and surgical abortion is simple: one is an oral medication (or rather, two medications), and the other is a kind of surgical procedure.  But perhaps you’re wondering what actually goes on inside the body during these two different processes.  What do these methods look like, and how do they compare and contrast?  In this blog, we’ll focus on the abortion pill and surgical abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy because this is when termination most commonly occurs.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) offers a concise summary of how medication abortions and surgical abortions work:

Medication Abortion (AKA, “The Abortion Pill”)

  • The medication abortion process involves taking two different kinds of pills. Mifepristone is taken first (to stop the development of the pregnancy), and misoprostol is taken about 1 or 2 days later.  Misoprostol causes the uterus to empty itself.
  • The abortion pill is commonly taken at home. For a woman who chooses to go this route, it’s really important to speak with a doctor to learn what to expect, and to ensure that she’ll have access to a doctor during the process.
  • It may be especially important to follow up with a medical professional after a medication abortion. For a woman’s own health, it’s critical for her to confirm that the abortion was completed.

Surgical Abortion

  • The surgical abortion process involves a surgical procedure. In the first trimester, that’s usually a vacuum aspiration (aka, suction curettage).  After a speculum has been placed in the vagina and the cervix has been opened, a thin tube is inserted into the uterus.  The other end of the tube is connected to a vacuum or suction pump, which removes the contents of the uterus.  A dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure can also be used to remove a pregnancy.  In this procedure, a tool called a curette is used to remove the pregnancy from the uterus.
  • A surgical abortion is completed in a medical setting. A patient may be able to return home the same day if no complications arise.

Consulting a Medical Professional

Maybe you’re reading this blog because you’re wondering which abortion method would be the safest option for you.  This could depend on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) your medical history, your medication regimen, and the gestational age of your pregnancy.  It’s important to consult a doctor who’s familiar with your reproductive health before moving forward.  Keep an informed perspective by learning what the procedure you’re considering would involve.  And be sure to prioritize your safety over quickness, convenience, or any other factor.

Our expert pregnancy consultants and nurses at Avenue are available to explain the ins and outs of your abortion options (and all your other alternatives) in language that’s easy to understand.  We believe that reflecting on key factors like your values, instincts, and feelings will also help you make a confident choice.  Your pregnancy decision will have medical (and probably emotional) significance whether you pursue abortion, adoption, or parenting.  You owe it to yourself to make a thoroughly considered and fully informed choice.  Our compassionate team at Avenue can play a vital role in that process.

Reach out to Avenue today! We’re here to navigate this entire process by your side- no matter where your path leads. 

*As a limited medical clinic, Avenue Women’s Center does not provide or refer for abortions, offer ongoing prenatal care, or facilitate adoptions.

*Abortion laws vary significantly by state.  Be sure to check your state’s legal requirements before moving forward with an abortion.



The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).  (2022, August).  FAQs: Abortion Care.  Retrieved from:

Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.

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.