Large Study Confirms That Abortion Is Extremely Safe

Abortion rights supporters stand outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization Inc., the only abortion clinic in Mississippi CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ROGELIO V. SOLIS
Abortion rights supporters stand outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization Inc., the only abortion clinic in Mississippi CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ROGELIO V. SOLIS

Major complications stemming from abortion are extremely rare, occurring in less than a quarter of a percent of cases, according to one of the nation’s most comprehensive studies to date into the safety of the medical procedure.

After analyzing data from nearly 55,000 women who received abortion care under California’s Medicaid program, researchers at UC San Francisco concluded that hardly any of them had serious complications within six weeks of their procedure. Just 126 cases necessitated follow-up care for surgery, a blood transfusion, or other conditions that require hospital admission.

Other studies, including data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have also confirmed abortion’s safety. We already had some evidence, for instance, that giving birth is about 14 times riskier than having an abortion. But the new UCSF study goes a bit further than previous research by tracking the complete data on all of the health care used by women who have received abortions. Since many women have to travel long distances to end a pregnancy, the UCSF researchers also examined women’s follow-up care at facilities closer to where they live.

Despite the mounting evidence in this area, the notion that abortion may be dangerous for women is a pervasive assumption that has bolstered the passage of dozens of state laws tightening restrictions on clinics and doctors. In a press release announcing their findings, the study authors indicated that they hope the new study “will contribute to the national debate over abortion safety.”


“Abortion is very safe as currently performed, which calls into question the need for additional regulations that purportedly aim to improve safety,” said Ushma Upadhyay, an assistant professor at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a leading research program based at UCSF.

Leading reproductive rights groups echoed that sentiment, pointing out that anti-abortion lawmakers are making decisions that don’t align with reality.

“The science says abortion is safe, but time and time again elected officials are ignoring the facts and jamming through abortion restrictions under a false guise of ‘safety’ when they actually endanger women,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.

States across the country have passed laws that require abortion doctors to make partnerships with local hospitals to ensure their patients can be admitted there, or that force abortion clinics to renovate their hallways to ensure they’re wide enough for ambulance stretchers. This strategy is known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP. But the arguments in favor of these laws quickly fall apart when considering the evidence that fewer than one percent of abortion patients will ever need to visit the hospital in the first place.

Nonetheless, the facts haven’t slowed the push to pass TRAP laws so far. Last year, even a GOP-initiated investigation into abortion clinics concluded that they’re already very regulated and extremely safe. But states like Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma all continued with efforts to implement additional regulations anyway.