Self-induction of abortion among women in the United States

Reprod Health Matters. 2010 Nov;18(36):136-46. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(10)36534-7.


Recent media coverage and case reports have highlighted women's attempts to end their pregnancies by self-inducing abortions in the United States. This study explored women's motivations for attempting self-induction of abortion. We surveyed women in clinic waiting rooms in Boston, San Francisco, New York, and a city in Texas to identify women who had attempted self-induction. We conducted 30 in-depth interviews and inductively analyzed the data. Median age at time of self-induction attempt was 19 years. Between 1979 and 2008, the women used a variety of methods, including medications, malta beverage, herbs, physical manipulation and, increasingly, misoprostol. Reasons to self-induce included a desire to avoid abortion clinics, obstacles to accessing clinical services, especially due to young age and financial barriers, and a preference for self-induction. The methods used were generally readily accessible but mostly ineffective and occasionally unsafe. Of the 23 with confirmed pregnancies, three reported a successful abortion not requiring clinical care. Only one reported medical complications in the United States. Most would not self-induce again and recommended clinic-based services. Efforts should be made to inform women about and improve access to clinic-based abortion services, particularly for medical abortion, which may appeal to women who are drawn to self-induction because it is natural, non-invasive and private.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal / administration & dosage
  • Abortion, Induced / methods*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Misoprostol / administration & dosage
  • Motivation*
  • Pregnancy
  • Self Administration*
  • Self Care
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal
  • Misoprostol