Pregnant and undecided

Dear Alice,

I am nineteen-years-old. I just found out that I'm pregnant. I have been with the guy for two years and in college for one year. We are not financially stable. We have given it a lot of thought, but still do not know what to do. I have looked at the pros and cons and still I'm not sure. I have three little sisters and know that raising children is a hard job. Throughout this time I have leaned more toward the abortion, but don't feel like I know enough about it. Can you please HELP?



Dear Undecided, 

Kudos to you for thinking about your capacity—both physically and financially—for welcoming a child into the world. There are two types of abortion available: medication abortion and surgical abortion. Medication abortion involves taking two drugs—mifepristone and misoprostol—to break the uterine lining down and shed it via a process similar to a heavy period. Surgical abortions involve a trained health care provider using instruments to suction pregnancy tissue out of the uterus. Unfortunately, access to these procedures may be limited by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, court cases related to the legality of mifepristone, and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Read on for more information about your options. 

Medication abortions are recommended if you are earlier in your pregnancy. Specifically, if you’re within 49 days of the first day of your last menstrual period, this may be an option for you. Currently, the legality of mifepristone is being challenged—there has been one court case ruling it as illegal and another one ruling it as legal. Depending on where you live, health care providers may or may not be able to prescribe these medications for you, which could limit access to medication abortions. 

If it's been more than 49 days since the first day of your last menstrual period, your options are limited to a surgical abortion. Clinically, having a surgical abortion is a safe and simple procedure when carried out by a licensed and trained medical professional with the appropriate sterile instruments. If you decide to have an abortion, it’s best to do so within the first trimester (first three months)—this is when an abortion is safer, easier, and less expensive. It may be more difficult to find someone to perform a second trimester abortion and third trimester abortions. Late term abortions are typically only performed when the carrying parent’s life is seriously threatened by the pregnancy, or if they need to be treated for a life-threatening disease with a medication that would be toxic to the pregnancy. 

Most surgical abortions take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. The most common technique, aspiration, involves inserting a small tube that’s attached to a source of gentle suction, which draws the pregnancy tissue out from the uterus through the cervix. You may be able to choose whether your anesthesia is local—you're awake—or general—you’re asleep. This type of abortion is done during the first three months. Second trimester abortions usually involve an injection of medication to help trigger the abortion. 

As far as how you’ll handle an abortion emotionally, some people feel relief, sadness, anger, upset, guilt, nothing at all, or all of the above.  If you choose to have an abortion, consider letting a close friend or two, besides your boyfriend, know about it. Having people around who care and who can support you in your decisions may help you to feel supported. 

How you move forward (or not) with the pregnancy is up to you. You may choose to terminate the pregnancy, or you can carry the pregnancy to full-term, either keeping the baby or opting for adoption. Having the input of your partner may also help you feel supported and help you make a more informed decision. It may be a complicated decision to make, as family, religious, cultural, and future life concerns are so often influential. Consider also speaking with a health care provider or making an appointment with your student health services if you need more help making your decision. Planned Parenthood is another great resource for information and support. You may also find it helpful to speak about this decision with a mental health professional or another person you trust. Whatever you decide, it’s great that you’re taking the steps to get as much information before making this decision.  

Last updated Jul 20, 2023
Originally published Nov 20, 1998