Abortion may be the right choice for someone who does not want to be pregnant at this time. It could be the right choice for people who want to end the pregnancy now, may not be ready to be a parent at this time, or feel unable to go through the commitment of adoption. There is no one “type” of person that chooses abortion. We meet people from various ages, races, religious, economic and marital statuses who choose to have an abortion for many reasons.

In Canada, abortion is legal. Access to abortion procedures are different from province to province. In Alberta, a person can choose to have an abortion up to 20 weeks into pregnancy. Most abortions take place in the first trimester of pregnancy, around 12 weeks after conception. Some clinics in the United States will perform abortions up to 27 weeks.

Be careful when looking for information or support about abortion. There are agencies and groups that are strongly opposed to this option. They may tell you that they provide “pregnancy options counselling” or “abortion counselling” but they do not support abortion as a choice. They may use language like “we will not provide a referral for an abortion”. This language is misleading as no referral is needed to access an abortion. Check carefully when you are calling other agencies for help and ask if the agency will provide abortion referrals. For a list of providers who openly discuss all three choices, feel free to give us a call or send us an email.

Do I have to pay for an abortion in Alberta?

There is no cost for abortion services in Alberta if you have Alberta, Saskatchewan, NWT or Nunavut health care insurance. All fees are covered by these provinces and territories. Unfortunately, if you are visiting from any other province/country, you may have to pay a portion of the fee. For more information on potential fees, contact the Kensington Clinic or the Women’s Health Clinic directly for an estimate of the fees that may apply.

Do I need permission from a parent to access abortion services?

Consent in Alberta is based on capacity, not age. If the physician and clinic staff feel you understand the procedure and its risks, you may sign your own consent form.

Types of Abortion

Medical abortions (also called pharmaceutical abortions) involve using medication to end the pregnancy. This method is performed up to 9 weeks counting from the first day of your last period. Medical abortions may require two or more visits to the abortion clinic. In about 2% of cases a surgical abortion may need to be performed if the medical abortion was not successful in ending the pregnancy.

During the first visit to the clinic education and counselling about the procedure will be provided. The clinic will perform an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy is less than 9 weeks. The first medication will be administered at the clinic. This medication causes the lining of the uterus to destabilize and end the pregnancy.

Day 2-3: the second round of medication can be taken at home. This medication will cause heavy bleeding and cramping from the uterus 1-4 hours after taking the medication. Bleeding is heavier than a period and is sometimes accompanied by clots. Cramping may be quite painful during the first few hours.

A few days later a second trip to the clinic for an ultrasound to confirm that the abortion is complete will be necessary. In some cases, a trip to the lab for a blood test can be done instead.

There are two types of surgical abortions: aspiration abortions and dilation and evacuation abortions. Aspiration abortions are performed between 6-15 weeks while dilation and evacuation abortions are performed for pregnancies between 15-20 weeks (counting from the first day of your last period).

The term “surgical” can be misleading because surgical abortions do not involve cuts or incisions. Medication is given to relax the person before the procedure begins. The doctor will start by gently opening the cervix at the top of the vagina by inserting medical rods, which slowly open the cervix as they expand. In later abortions, laminaria dilation is inserted into the cervix the day before the abortion. Laminaria is a thin stick that is inserted into the cervix, where it absorbs fluid and expands, allowing the cervix to slowly and gently open. The person returns to the clinic the next day for the procedure.

Once the cervix is opened (dilated) the doctor will use a small medical device to gently suction and remove the contents of the uterus. Before concluding the procedure the doctor will use a spoon shaped device called a curette to check the walls of the uterus and confirm the abortion has been completed. These procedures typically take less than 30 minutes.

When the procedure is done you can expect to remain at the clinic for about 30 – 45 minutes until the effects of the medication wear off. You can expect to be at the clinic for 2 to 3 hours in total for the procedure. As soon as you feel well you can go home. It is important to arrange a ride home from the clinic (either from a support person or with a support person in a taxi) as the clinic will not allow patients to drive themselves home. The medication from procedure may affect your ability to drive for up to 24 hours following the procedure.

Post-Abortion Care

After an abortion some people may feel light-headed and tired on the day of the abortion. Signs of pregnancy (such as nausea or breast tenderness) should stop within about 4 to 5 days. Some people experience light vaginal bleeding similar to a period  for about one to two weeks. Small blood clots may also be passed during this time. Sanitary pads are recommended while tampons should be avoided as this could lead to an infection. Some people may experience abdominal cramps. Medicine such as an acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken to alleviate any discomfort. Because of the medication given during the procedure a person’s judgment and memory may be affected for up to 24 hours which is why driving should be avoided.

Most people feel well enough to go back to work or school the next day. It is recommended to avoid strenuous exercise for a few days and try to get lots of rest. It is okay to shower or have a bath after the procedure. It is recommended to avoid penetrative sex for three weeks in order to give the body time to heal.

A check-up is often arranged with a doctor 2 weeks after the abortion. The next normal period may come in about 4 to 6 weeks.

A pregnancy test may remain positive for about 2 weeks after an abortion.

It is possible to get pregnant soon after an abortion. If a person wants to begin birth control they can talk to the clinic prior to the procedure or contact their own family doctor to plan ahead. To learn more about birth control options visit our Birth Control Options page.

People may have a lot of different feelings both before and after an abortion and this is normal. If you would like to talk about your feelings, speak to someone you trust or call Centre for Sexuality: 403-283-5580 or email: info@centreforsexuality.ca

Considering Abortion?

Reflection Questions

You may find it helpful to ask yourself some questions about abortion. The following questions may help you explore some of your values and feelings about abortion. There are no right or wrong answers – these questions are meant to help you make a decision that will be right for you.

  • What were my views on abortion before I became pregnant

  • Have my views of abortion changed now that I am pregnant?
  • Do I have any spiritual or moral beliefs that may impact my decision?
  • Do I have people in my life that would support me with an abortion choice?
  • Do I feel that I need other people to support my choice?
  • How do I think that I might feel after an abortion?
  • How would making this choice impact my life in both the short and long term?
  • What would make this the best choice for me?

Think about your answers and what they mean to you. You may want to discuss your answers with a family member, your partner, a friend or a counsellor. Free pregnancy options counselling is available at Centre for Sexuality and the two abortion clinics in CalgaryKensington Clinic and the Women’s Health Clinic at The Peter Lougheed Centre.