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Study finds abortion-related emergency department visits are extremely rare

Across the United States, states have enacted policies that tightly regulate abortion provision, citing concerns about the safety of abortion. In this new study, we found that the rate of major medical incidents resulting from abortion is very low. In fact, it is much lower than many other common outpatient procedures.

We analyzed data from nearly 190 million emergency department (ED) visits between 2009 and 2013 by women of reproductive age and found that among all visits, only about 0.01% were abortion-related. Previous research on abortion-related ED visits has been conducted at the state level only; this study is the first to use this extensive data set to explore the topic on a national scale.  

During the five-year study period, there were about 5,282,500 abortions in the U.S. Using this figure and the study data, we estimate the rate of major incidents seen in EDs for abortion in the U.S. was 0.11% (about 108 per 100,000 abortions). This incident rate is lower than the published major incident rates for a wide range of unregulated outpatient medical procedures including colonoscopy (0.2%), wisdom tooth removal (1.0%), tonsillectomy (1.4%) and even lower than the rate of severe pregnancy-related complications (1.4%).

The study, “Abortion-related emergency department visits in the United States: An analysis of a national emergency department sample,” is out now in BMC Medicine.

Download and share our infographic, which highlights the findings of this study.

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