Facing an unplanned pregnancy can feel overwhelming and isolating. But you’re not alone, and you have options.
Abortion is one safe, legal way to end an unwanted pregnancy. (If abortion isn’t right for you, keep in mind you have other options, too.)
Abortion isn’t just safe, it’s also very common. Nearly a quarter of people who become pregnant in the United States will have an abortion by the age of 45.
In the United States, you have a constitutional right to get an abortion. That said, the frame of time during which you can get an abortion can vary, depending on where you live.
Federal policies limit access for many people across the country. And many states set strict — some might argue unconstitutional — restrictions around abortion.
You’ll find plenty of conflicting information about abortion on the internet, including when and where you can have the procedure done. But we’re here to help. Below, we’ll cover the facts on abortion timelines in the United States.
Outside the United States? You’ll find some international abortion resources and information at the end of the article.
First, we’d like to offer a word of caution about home abortions.
When you know you don’t want to go through with a pregnancy, but worry you may have trouble accessing abortion in your area, you might consider home remedy alternatives.
Home remedy options for abortion might include:
Very little, if any, scientific evidence supports these methods as safe, reliable ways to induce abortion. Not only are they unlikely to end a pregnancy, they can have major health consequences for you.
In short, home abortions are always best avoided.
An unintended pregnancy can lead to plenty of emotional distress. You might feel frightened, anxious, and possibly even desperate.
We want to emphasize, though, that you *do* have options for handling it, no matter your location or circumstances. In other words: There’s no need to put your health at risk.
The steps to determining how far along you are might seem fairly complicated, even at the best of times. When you already feel stressed and overwhelmed, this might present even more of a task.
You’ll need to know the date of your last menstrual period (LMP) to calculate how many weeks pregnant you are. Even if you know, without a doubt, the exact date you became pregnant, healthcare professionals calculate gestational age from your LMP.
If your periods are regular: Count, by week, from the first day of your last period to today’s date. Your answer will tell you how many weeks along you are.
It gets more complicated if your periods are irregular or if you can’t recall when your last period was. If that’s the case, you’ll want to consult a medical professional as soon as possible.
A doctor or other healthcare professional can do an ultrasound to determine how many weeks pregnant you are before giving you more information about your options for abortion.
A medical abortion is a reliable option to terminate an early pregnancy.
You might also hear this method called the “abortion pill,” though it actually involves two medications: mifepristone and misoprostol. Here’s what a medical abortion involves.
You can get a medical abortion until week 10 of pregnancy. That’s because the medication becomes less effective the further along you are.
By week 11 of pregnancy, its effectiveness drops to only about 87 percent, according to Planned Parenthood.
Before week 10 of pregnancy, this method is very effective, but it might not work for everyone. Your healthcare professional will likely recommend a surgical abortion if you:
While medical abortion remains legal in all 50 states, many states have set restrictions around the procedure:
After week 10 of pregnancy, most doctors typically recommend a surgical abortion.
Only a few states allow surgical abortion at any point during pregnancy with no specific restrictions.
Many states have restrictions in place that ban abortion after a certain point in pregnancy, usually 20 or 24 weeks.
Currently, most states allow abortion up to week 20 of pregnancy — but that doesn’t mean they make the process easy. Depending on where you live, you may have to navigate any number of restrictions, like lengthy waiting periods and limited abortion providers, before the procedure takes place.
Trying to make sense of the limitations in your state? Our state-by-state guide to abortion restrictions can help.
Generally, two different options for surgical abortion exist: vacuum aspiration and dilation and evacuation. These procedures take place at a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital.
You can get this type of abortion up to week 16 of pregnancy, which covers the first trimester and the beginning of the second.
Here’s what an aspiration abortion involves.
You’ll get this type of abortion during the second trimester, typically once you’ve passed week 14 of pregnancy.
Here’s what a D&E procedure involves.
After 24 weeks of pregnancy, you can only get a D&E procedure or induction abortion.
Oftentimes, doctors will only recommend an induction abortion if you can’t get a D&E. That said, this is done on a case-by-case basis. If you prefer to have an induction abortion, which allows the fetus to be delivered intact, talk with your healthcare professional.
Other reasons for getting an induction abortion include:
Here’s what an induction abortion involves.
States that allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy may use viability to determine when you can get an abortion.
Viability, in basic terms, means the age at which a fetus could survive outside the uterus. There’s no set date at which a fetus becomes viable, but experts generally agree this happens somewhere between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.
These states include:
After this point, you’ll only be able to get an abortion in these states if continuing the pregnancy poses a threat to your life or physical health. A threat to your health means significant or irreversible harm to a major body function.
Some states allow abortion after 24 weeks or past the point of viability under other circumstances, such as in the case of a fatal fetal anomaly or when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest (Arkansas and Utah only).
These states include:
A healthcare professional can offer more insight and compassionate guidance on next steps in the case of a fetal anomaly, or when the pregnancy threatens your health.
States and districts that currently have no gestational age restrictions on abortion:
These states may set other limitations, though, including parental notification if you’re a minor.
If you live in one of these areas, your healthcare professional can offer more guidance and information about abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Many states have laws that require you to notify a parent or guardian, or get their consent, before having an abortion if you’re under the age of 18.
In Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, your healthcare professional can waive this requirement in some limited circumstances.
Use our guide to find your state and learn more.
Abortion access varies widely by country.
The Center for Reproductive Rights offers more information on abortion laws around the world, along with a map you can use to check the abortion laws in your country.
State restrictions on abortion limit your power to make your own choices, even when you know abortion is right for you.
If you’re considering abortion, timely support can make it easier to evaluate your options and find a nearby professional, no matter where you live.
These resources can offer more support, before, during, and after abortion:
Crystal Raypole writes for Healthline and Psych Central. Her fields of interest include Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health, along with books, books, and more books. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues. She lives in Washington with her son and a lovably recalcitrant cat.
Last medically reviewed on September 2, 2021