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An abortion is a procedure that is used to remove a fertilized egg, also known as an embryo, from a woman’s uterus in order to end her pregnancy. It can be done with a medication that makes the uterus force out the embryo or surgically with a vacuum device that uses suction to remove the embryo. A therapeutic abortion is performed to end a pregnancy if a doctor determines that continuing the pregnancy would harm either the mother or fetus. It is different than an elective abortion, in which a woman ends a pregnancy for personal reasons. The reasons for therapeutic abortions can be to protect the mother from physical or mental harm or if the unborn child will have severe birth defects.
One of the most common reasons for a therapeutic abortion is a preexisting physical medical condition that may make a woman unable to survive labor. Women with severe heart conditions may not be able to handle the physical stress of labor. Another instance is if a pregnant woman has a type of advanced gynecological cancer, such as breast or cervical cancer, she may not be able to continue treatment without harming the unborn child. Stopping treatment for the duration can make the cancer spread, often fatally, so a doctor may recommend a woman discontinue the pregnancy.
A doctor may also recommend a therapeutic abortion if he or she believes the pregnancy could result in psychological harm to the woman. If a woman becomes pregnancy as the result of a rape and is emotionally unstable or depressed as a result, her doctor may deem the pregnancy dangerous to both the mother and unborn child. Pregnancies that are due to incest can also be considered psychologically dangerous to the woman. The child may also be at risk of being born with severe birth defects or developmental delays as a result of having parents who are related.
Therapeutic abortions may be performed if prenatal testing concludes that the unborn child is at risk of not being able to survive the entire pregnancy, such as in the event of abnormal physical development. A pregnant woman may opt for the procedure if she finds out the unborn child would be born with severe brain damage, a heart disorder, or any other condition that she feels would affect the child’s quality of life. The decision to perform an abortion due to possible birth defects is more subjective and controversial than other reasons for therapeutic abortions, because it is up to the woman to decide what qualifies as quality of life.
If a woman is pregnant with multiple embryos, her doctor may recommend a selective therapeutic abortion. During a pregnancy with multiples, not all the embryos may be able to receive the proper amount of oxygen to survive in the womb if the pregnancy is continued as is. The pregnant woman may decide to terminate some of the embryos to be able to save the others.