Medical Reasons: Abortion: Health of the Mother

Abortion for medical reasons

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Therapeutic Abortion?

  • A therapeutic abortion is a termination of pregnancy meant to alleviate a physical or mental health condition.
  • If the health condition is life-threatening, a medically necessary abortion is performed to save the mother’s life. This is legal throughout pregnancy.
  • A medically indicated termination for the mother’s health is commonly permitted until viability. This is an elective abortion since it is not medically necessary.

This article provides you with information on regulations and possible outcomes when encountering health problems during pregnancy.

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Medically Necessary vs. Medically Indicated Abortion

Therapeutic abortions are considered terminations for medical reasons (TFMR). These fall under two categories: Medically necessary abortions and medically indicated abortions.

What is a Medically Necessary Abortion?

A medically necessary abortion is a termination of pregnancy to save the life of the mother. Continuing the pregnancy would mean certain death to the mother, which, in turn, would also lead to the death of the unborn child.

  • The principle of double effect comes into play, as the life-saving measure has the secondary effect of ending the life of the fetus.
  • This is also known as an indirect abortion since the loss of pregnancy is not the goal, but the indirect consequence of a life-saving medical procedure.

Abortions to save the mother's life are permitted in all western nations throughout pregnancy, even in states where abortion is banned.

What is a Medically Indicated Abortion?

A medically indicated abortion is a termination of pregnancy to improve the health of the mother. This is an elective abortion since it is not medically necessary.

Until When Can I Have an Abortion for Health Reasons?

Every country has its own regulations regarding exceptions to gestational limits for the health of the mother. Most countries allow medically indicated abortions up until the viability of the fetus.

  • The numbers listed under your region are the weeks of pregnancy, counting from your last menstrual period (LMP).
  • RegionRegular LimitMother's HealthMother's Life
    Arizona15 Weeks LMP15 Weeks LMPunlimited
    Californiaviability permitted beyond viability unlimited
    Florida6 Weeks LMPextendedunlimited
    Georgia6 Weeks LMP6 Weeks LMPunlimited
    Indianabanned20 weeksunlimited
    Iowa22 Weeks LMP22 weeks LMPunlimited
    Kansas22 Weeks LMP22 weeks LMPunlimited
    Massachusetts24 Weeks LMP24 Weeks LMPunlimited
    Michigan24 Weeks LMP24 Weeks LMPunlimited
    Nebraska12 weeks12 weeks unlimited
    Nevada24 Weeks LMP24 Weeks LMPunlimited
    New Hampshire24 Weeks LMP24 Weeks LMPunlimited
    New Jerseyunlimitedunlimitedunlimited
    New Mexicounlimitedunlimitedunlimited
    New Yorkviabilityviabilityunlimited
    N. Carolina12 Weeks LMP12 Weeks LMPunlimited
    N. Dakotabannedbannedunlimited
    Pennsylvania24 weeks LMP24 weeks LMPunlimited
    Rhode Islandviabilityviabilityunlimited
    S. Carolina6 weekspermittedunlimited
    S. Dakotabannedbannedunlimited
    Utah18 Weeks LMP18 Weeks LMPunlimited
    Virginia26w + 6d LMP26w + 6d LMPunlimited
    Washington DCunlimitedunlimitedunlimited
    W. Virginiabannedbannedunlimited

  • Region Regular Limit Mother's Health Mother's Life
    Great Britain 24 Weeks LMP 24 Weeks LMP unlimited
    Northern Ireland 24 Weeks LMP 24 Weeks LMP unlimited
    Republic of Ireland 12 Weeks LMP 24 Weeks LMP unlimited

  • Region Regular Limit Mother's Health Mother's Life
    ACT unlimited unlimited unlimited
    NSW 22 Weeks LMP 22 Weeks LMP unlimited
    NT 14 Weeks LMP 23 Weeks LMP unlimited
    QLD 22 Weeks LMP 22 Weeks LMP unlimited
    SA (2022) 22w + 6d LMP unlimited unlimited
    TAS 16 Weeks LMP 16 Weeks LMP unlimited
    VIC 24 Weeks LMP 24 Weeks LMP unlimited
    WA 20 Weeks LMP 20 Weeks LMP unlimited

  • While abortion is unrestricted throughout Canada, availability differs from state to state. Here you can find out until when abortion is offered in your region:

    Region Available Until
    Alberta 20 Weeks LMP
    British Columbia 24w + 6d LMP
    Manitoba 16 Weeks LMP
    New Brunswick 16 Weeks LMP
    Newfoundland & Labrador 16 Weeks LMP
    Northwest Territories 20 Weeks LMP
    Nova Scotia 16 Weeks LMP
    Nunavut 19w + 6d LMP
    Ontario 23w + 6d LMP
    Prince Edward Island 12 Weeks LMP
    Quebec 24 Weeks LMP
    Saskatchewan 18w + 6d LMP
    Yukon 12w + 6d LMP

  • Region Regular Limit Mother's Health Mother's Life
    New Zealand 20 Weeks LMP unlimited unlimited
    South Africa 13 Weeks LMP 20 Weeks LMP unlimited

  • Austria:





    Region Regular Limit Mother's Health Mother's Life
    Cambodia 12 Weeks LMP unlimited unlimited
    Mexico 15 Weeks LMP unlimited unlimited
    Netherlands 24 Weeks LMP 24 Weeks LMP unlimited
    Thailand 12 Weeks LMP 20 Weeks LMP unlimited

When is an Abortion Performed to Save the Life of the Mother?

Medically necessary abortions are less than 1 in 74,000, according to a study performed by Murphy and O’Driscoll. Here are the three most common causes:

Common Causes for Medical Abortions:

  • In rare cases, placental abruptions can cause the woman to go into hemorrhagic shock from heavy bleeding. An abortion becomes necessary to prevent the woman from bleeding to death.

  • Preeclampsia is marked by extremely high blood pressure. Left unchecked, it can lead to organ damage, affecting the liver and kidneys. When preeclampsia becomes life-threatening to the mother, premature delivery may be the only cure. If the baby’s gestational age is below 24 weeks, it usually does not survive.

  • Chorioamnionitis is an intraamniotic infection. Bacteria may enter the woman’s uterus when her water breaks early. Most women experiencing a preterm prelabor rupture of membranes receive antibiotics, which is 98% successful in preventing an infection. Should chorio develop, the baby must be delivered to save the mother’s life.

Ectopic Pregnancy

One in 50 pregnancies are ectopic. In an ectopic (out-of-place) pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, usually in the Fallopian tubes (tubal pregnancy). The growing fetus cannot fully develop but can cause the host organ to burst and must be removed to prevent the mother from bleeding to death. This is not considered an abortion since the baby has no chance of survival.

Reasons for Pursuing a Therapeutic Abortion

Is your pregnancy putting your health at risk? Several health factors can be at play:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • psychological
  • familial
  • maternal age

1. Physical

Severe pregnancy complications are making it difficult for you to continue with the pregnancy. Now you have been asked by your medical provider to consider abortion…

❗ Your doctor cannot perform an abortion without your explicit consent. It is your decision!

Perhaps you have been told that you have a high-risk pregnancy. Heart disease, kidney conditions, lupus, diabetes, cancer — these diagnoses can make a pregnancy "high-risk." These medical conditions do not necessitate abortion. Help is available for you to continue the pregnancy.

Conditions that may Complicate your Pregnancy:

  • The increased blood volume during pregnancy requires the heart to work harder. Your heart rate increases, pumping 30–50% more blood through your system. If your heart rate was already elevated prior to pregnancy, you will need to take precautions and be monitored closely. Most pregnancies can still be carried to term.

    Possible solutions and aids:

    • Consult your doctor about your heart medication during pregnancy
    • Rest. Avoid activities which elevate your heart rate.
    • Eat healthy foods. Avoid excessive weight gain.
    • Stay informed. Knowing what to expect during pregnancy can ease anxiety
  • A kidney disorder requiring dialysis would place your pregnancy at higher risk for complications. Advances in treatment lead to a successful delivery in 90% of cases.

  • Lupus is an autoimmune disease causing your body's immune system to attack your own tissues and organs, leading to inflammation of joints, skin, heart, lungs etc.

    While lupus can create difficulties during pregnancy, it is unlikely to hinder the delivery of a healthy baby. For more information, go to Pregnant with Lupus.

  • Perhaps you recently received a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy. You wonder whether an abortion is your only option to receive the necessary chemotherapy. 

    Cancer treatment is now possible during pregnancy. A multidisciplinary team works together, assuring the best outcome possible for both mother and baby.

2. Emotional

Perhaps you recently received a positive diagnosis during a prenatal screening. Where do you go from here? What if the baby has a birth defect? You may be concerned that this is more than you can handle.

Maybe you are at a higher risk for miscarriage or stillbirth. Or does the thought of raising a(nother) child feel overwhelming? Are your concerns more than you can bear? Does abortion seem to promise relief from your anxiety?

3. Psychological

Perhaps you had a mental health diagnosis prior to your pregnancy, which seems exacerbated by your present situation. Or a mental illness may have only recently been identified. While the stress of pregnancy can lead to stronger manifestations, it is usually not the culprit. Could this be an opportunity to seek better treatment?

4. Familial

You had pictured yourself starting a family — one day — when everything was exactly right. But things did not go according to plan. You find yourself pregnant while your relationship is in shambles. Perhaps you were never really an item — or he does not want the baby.

Where do you go from here? Could this be an opportunity to exhibit your strength of spirit?

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5. Age

Perhaps you expected your childbearing years to be behind you. Your family felt complete, and you were enjoying the growing independence of your other children.

You also realize that certain risks accompany advanced maternal age. You are not sure whether your body can take it.

A certain level of physical fitness is necessary for conception. Could this be an unexpected gift that life is entrusting you with?

Abortion Methods for the Health of the Mother

If you are seeking a therapeutic abortion within the first trimester (first 12 weeks of pregnancy), these are the available methods:

Abortions after the first trimester are considered late-term. Other methods are necessary for late-term abortions because of the size and development of the fetus.

Considering Abortion for Health Reasons?

Perhaps you just got home from an appointment and are now frantically looking for answers. This had been a desired pregnancy, but now you are unsure whether you can go through with it.

Or maybe this has burdened your mind for a while. Are you feeling like this pregnancy is taking too much of a toll on you?

Either situation is anything but easy! Fortunately, you do not have to decide on the spot. An abortion for the health of the mother has generous time parameters.

If you would like some unbiased counsel to guide you in your decision-making process, please take advantage of our free digital coaching. We desire that you may discover the path that is right for you.

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