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Pro-Choice Medical Center


Glossary and Definitions

Early Abortion Options and The Abortion Pill

First and Second Trimester Abortion

Is Abortion Safe

Unsure About Your Decision

A Guide to Good Care



Aftercare and Birth Control

Map and Directions
Glossary and Definitions
of common terms.

Surgical abortion refers to the procedure performed by a doctor to remove the pregnancy from the uterus. It does not actually involve any cutting or sewing. In early pregnancy the surgical abortion is called a vacuum aspiration or a suction curettage. These terms are used interchangeably. In later pregnancy the surgical abortion is referred to as a dilation and evacuation or extraction because the pregnancy is removed with forceps instead of the vacuum. This is referred to as a D&E. Dilation or dilatation refers to the process of opening the cervix enough to insert a small suction tube or forceps. This is done with graduated metal dilators in early pregnancy. In later pregnancies dilation is augmented with either prostaglandin medication or with small rods that are left in the cervix for several hours. The rods are called laminaria

Gestational age is the length of pregnancy calculated in weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period or LMP. All medical terminology uses the LMP to date the pregnancy even though the date of conception occurs about 2 weeks later. The most accurate way to determine length of pregnancy is by ultrasound.

Medical abortion is achieved by using a series of drugs taken sequentially. The patient expels the pregnancy at home. Medical abortion is synonymous with non-surgical abortion. The drugs that are used are either Mifepristone or Methotrexate followed by Misoprostol. The Mifepristone is called Mifeprex in the United States and RU486 in Europe. The abortion pill is Mifepristone. Methotrexate is an injection that was widely used in the United States and Canada before Mifepristone became available. Misoprostol is a prostaglandin, which causes the cervix to dilate and the uterus to contract. It is taken either orally or inserted vaginally a few days after the Mifepristone or Methotrexate.

FDA or Federal Drug Administration is a governmental agency that must approve a drug before it becomes available for use in the United States. Once a drug is approved, it may be used by clinicians for additional uses or in other regimens, in addition to the FDA labeled use, if the use is based on sound medical evidence. The FDA recognizes that off-label use often represents the standard of practice.

CDC or Center for Disease Control is a governmental agency that monitors the prevalence of diseases and the incidence of complications of surgical procedures and publishes their data.

Pro-choice is a point of view that the decision to continue a pregnancy or to terminate it should be the choice of the pregnant patient herself. In other words, a woman has autonomy over her own body. Anti-choice is a point of view that abortion should not be an option. Tactics used by anti-choice organizations include support of politicians who try to make abortion illegal, exaggeration about the medical risks of abortion, harassment of patients and staff at clinics, and violence against providers.


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