Medical abortion: issues of choice and acceptability

Reprod Health Matters. 2005 Nov;13(26):25-34. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(05)26204-3.


Although more than one method of abortion has been available for many years, in most countries the provider chooses the method and may be skilled in one method only. This paper discusses choice and acceptability of medical abortion from the perspective of both women and abortion providers and argues that choice of method is important for both. Safety, efficacy, number of visits, how the method works, how long it takes for the abortion to be complete and cost all affect acceptability. Medical abortion is considered more natural because it happens in women's own bodies and can take place at home before nine weeks of pregnancy; surgical abortion with vacuum aspiration is simple and over quickly. Unless the costs of both methods are similar, however, women and providers will tend towards whichever is the cheaper option, limiting choice. Medical abortion is effective from when a woman misses her period through 24 weeks of pregnancy, and more women and providers need to be made aware of this. In legally restricted situations, complications tend to be less serious and easier to treat with early medical abortion than after unsafe invasive methods. Ideally, both medical and surgical methods should be available, but each can be provided without the other.

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents / pharmacology*
  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Pregnancy


  • Abortifacient Agents