Eliminating the phrase "elective abortion": why language matters

Contraception. 2016 Feb;93(2):89-92. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2015.10.008. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


The phrase "elective abortion" is often used to describe induced abortions performed for reasons other than a direct, immediate threat to maternal physical health. We argue that the term "elective abortion" is variably defined, misrepresents the complexity and multiplicity of indications for abortion and perpetuates stigma. In practice, restricting access to abortion at the legal, regulatory or institutional level based on subjective perceptions of patient need constrains health care providers' ability to act according to their best clinical judgments and limits patient access to care. The phrase "elective abortion" should be eliminated from scientific and medical discourse to prevent further damage to the public understanding of the variety of indications for which women require expeditious and equitable access to induced abortion.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Stigma
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Young Adult