This article will answer many of your questions about abortion.
If you want more information, contact one of the groups or agencies
listed at the end.
What is an abortion?
An abortion is the ending of a pregnancy. The embryo or fetus is
removed from the woman's uterus. In an average abortion, the fetus
is about 3 cm long. Scientists tell us that the fetus has no awareness
and no pain sensations until after the fifth month of pregnancy.
Is it legal to have an abortion?
YES. Abortions are legal in Canada. You can have an abortion at
either a hospital or a clinic that performis abortions. In BC, some
designated hospitals perform abortions.
How much does an abortion cost?
Abortions are free in BC if you have medical coverage. (There may
also be a charge for medications not covered by MSP.) You can get
medical coverage as long as you've lived in BC for the last three
months. If you are covered under someone else's medical plan (like
your parents), and you don't want them to find out, don't worry
- information on abortions for teenagers is always kept confidential
by the Ministry of Health.
If you're new to the Province and don't have medical coverage,
the cost for an early abortion is about $450 to $600. If you can't
afford it, talk to one of the clinics, or contact the Pregnancy
Options Line at 1-888-875-3163 (within Lower Mainland, 604-875-3163).
Clinics may be able to help with funding or payment plans in special
Do I need a parent's consent to have an abortion?
Not in BC. However, doctors often encourage teens to tell a parent
or another important adult, to help them with emotional support.
Hospitals and clinics are obligated to keep secret the names of
teenagers who have abortions.
How late in a pregnancy can an abortion be done?
An abortion should be done as early as possible. Most abortions
are done during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Medical abortions
(using pills) can only be done up until about the seventh week of
pregnancy. Surgical abortions on request can be done after the fifth
week of pregnancy in most cases, and up to 14 to 18 weeks in a clinic,
or 22 weeks in a hospital.
Abortions are also available after 22 weeks in the rare event
that your life or health becomes seriously threatened by the pregnancy,
or in cases of serious fetal abnormality.
Medicare-funded abortions on request can be obtained in Victoria
BC, Sherbrooke Quebec, and London Ontario up to about 22 or 23 weeks.
Abortions on request can also be obtained in Washington State up
to 26 weeks gestation.
Contact the Pregnancy Options Line at 1-888-875-3163 (within Lower
Mainland, 604-875-3163) for more information on 2nd and 3rd trimester
abortions, and for assistance in obtaining such abortions out-of-province,
as well as help or advice in covering costs.
How safe is an abortion?
Abortions are extremely safe - it is one of the safest medical
operations of all, and many times safer than childbirth. The earlier
the abortion, the lower the chance of complications.
If I have an abortion, can I still have children
Yes. Women who have an early abortion, even more than one abortion,
are just as likely as women in general to have a healthy baby in
What happens during an abortion?
In a surgical abortion, the woman lies on an examining table so
the doctor can see into her vagina to find her cervix, which is
the opening to her uterus. Then the doctor will either use a local
anesthetic to freeze the cervix, or a brief general anesthetic to
make her unconscious for a short time.
To remove the contents of her uterus, the doctor gradually opens
the cervix and inserts a small tube. This tube is attached to a
machine that gently suctions the inside of the uterus. The doctor
then carefully checks the inside of the uterus to be sure no tissue
The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes. Afterwards, the woman
usually has some bleeding, like a menstrual period. You'll probably
be at the clinic for about 3 or 4 hours, however, to allow for counselling
time and recovery.
Is an abortion painful?
Local or general anesthetics are used before an abortion to control
pain. Most women feel cramps (like strong period cramps) for a short
time. If a woman needs it, the doctor will give her extra medication
for any pain.
How will I feel after an abortion?
Most women feel relief after their abortion and are satisfied that
they have made the right decision for themselves.
Some women feel sad or emotional for a few days or weeks afterwards
and may find a supportive friend or counsellor very helpful at this
time. These feelings usually fade within a short time.
Researchers have found that having an abortion does not make women
feel bad about themselves years later. In general, women decide
on abortion because being pregnant at that time is in some way wrong
Do many teenagers have abortions?
Yes. About half of pregnant teenagers choose to have an abortion.
About 20,000 teenagers have abortions in Canada each year.
Unfortunately, many teenagers often decide to have an abortion
too late in their pregnancies. Either they don't realize that they
are pregnant, or they don't know what to do about it.
What are the alternatives to abortion?
If you decide not to have an abortion, you can continue the pregnancy
and have the baby. Then you can either keep it, or place it for
If you decide to have the baby, some single teenage mothers can
get welfare or mother's allowance. If you decide to place the baby
for adoption, you may be able to choose the family you want to adopt
your child. Check the web site of the Ministry
for Children and Family Development for information and support.
Remember, it's your decision - not your boyfriend's or your parents'
or anyone else's. Try to get some support to help you make the best
decision for you.
Is it wrong to have an abortion?
Some religions think that abortions are wrong, while other religions
teach that abortion is a woman's choice. Many people believe that
abortion is a responsible decision when a woman cannot handle the
pregnancy or properly take care of a child.
Women who decide to have an abortion take motherhood seriously.
Most Canadians agree that women faced with an unplanned, unwanted
pregnancy should be able to choose an abortion.
How do I get an abortion?
You can just call a clinic that performs abortions (listed below)
and make an appointment. The clinic may want you to get an ultrasound
before your abortion - they can either do it right at the clinic,
or help arrange it for you somewhere else.
You don't need a doctor's referral unless you get an abortion at
a hospital. A sympathetic doctor
would have to arrange this for you.
Where can I go for more information or counselling?
Here are some people, organizations, and clinics that you can ask
for more information about pregnancy or abortion:
- your school nurse or family doctor
- Pregnancy Options Line: 604-875-3163 (outside Lower Mainland
- Facts of Life Line: 604-731-7803 (outside Lower Mainland call
- Options for Sexual Health (formerly Planned Parenthood): 604-731-4252
Health Centre: 604-322-6692 (surgical abortions up to 13 weeks,
- Elizabeth Bagshaw
Women's Clinic: 604-736-7878 (surgical abortions up to 16
weeks, 6 days)
- C.A.R.E. Program,
BC Women's Hospital: 604-875-2022 (surgical abortions up to 18
- Willow Women's Clinic:
604-709-5611 (medical abortions up to 7 weeks, using methotrexate)
- Vancouver Island Women's
Clinic: 250-480-7338 (medical abortions up to 7 weeks, surgical
abortions up to 22 weeks)
- Women's Services Clinic, Kelowna General Hospital: 250-979-0251
(surgical abortions up to 14 weeks; open one day a week only)
Be careful - there are some groups that offer pregnancy counselling,
but who are against abortion. They won't give you any information
on abortion, and may even try and talk you out of it. Such groups
include Birthright and Crisis Pregnancy Centre.