Types of Abortions

The main points

  • Abortion is a safe and common method to end a pregnancy.
  • There are two types of abortion: Surgical abortion and medical abortion.
  • Choosing the type of abortion is a personal decision and based on a range of factors and circumstances.

It is estimated that around a quarter of all pregnancies in Australia are unplanned. For many people abortion, also known as termination of pregnancy, is the best option in their circumstances. Abortion is a safe and common method to end a pregnancy.

Types of abortion

Two types of abortion are currently available in Australia. Both are low-risk and have a high success rate.

  • Surgical abortion is most commonly performed during the first trimester of pregnancy (up to 12 weeks). The procedure is usually performed under light sedation and uses gentle suction to remove the lining and contents of the uterus.
  • Medication abortion can be performed up to nine weeks of pregnancy. The method involves taking a combination of tablets to bring on a miscarriage.

Choosing the type of abortion

Choosing the type of abortion is a personal decision and based on a range of factors and circumstances. It is a time-sensitive decision and depending on how far along the pregnancy is, a decision may need to be made quite quickly.

Why do some people choose a surgical abortion instead of a medical abortion?

  • Only one clinic visit may be required for a surgical abortion. Medical abortions (without complications) require at least 2 telehealth or clinic visits.
  • Around 3 – 5% of those having a medical abortion will need minor surgery to clear the lining of the uterus and this will involve extra consultations.
  • Pain and bleeding are usually mild.
  • The person having the surgical abortion will not see the pregnancy tissue.
  • The appointment is undertaken at a clinic. The person will not need to find a private place to have the miscarriage.
  • A intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) or contraceptive implant can be inserted, immediately after the surgical procedure and whilst still under sedation.

Why do some people choose medical abortion instead of surgical abortion?

  • A feeling of more privacy and control over the abortion process. Sedation is not necessary.
  • The experience may feel more natural than a surgical abortion.
  • They can choose the time the abortion occurs.
  • It is usually cheaper.
  • There are more health care providers that offer medical abortion, so you might not need travel.

There are some medical conditions and social circumstances that restrict the type of abortion you can choose. These will need to be discussed with a doctor or nurse.

You might want to consider your privacy and having a support person at home if deciding on a medical abortion.

Do I have to have counselling first?

No, you do not. It is an option.

Most people do not need counselling or support from a professional to make a decision about abortion.

It is usually helpful to find someone supportive to talk to. Choose someone you trust. This may be your partner, a friend, a family member or a health professional.

For more information see: Abortion and Emotional Support

Abortion in Australia

Abortion is a common and legal procedure in all Australian states and territories.

Early surgical abortion (up to 12 weeks) is available Australia wide and later abortion is available in most states and territories.

Medical abortion is available up to nine weeks of pregnancy in a range of health services.

Abortion in Victoria

In Victoria surgical abortion beyond 16 weeks is costly and service providers are limited. Speak to your doctor of nurse for more information.

If a doctor does not provide abortion information or services, they must refer you to a doctor who they know does.

All abortion services are protected by safe access zones (with a radius of 150 metres). This allows people entering or leaving premises providing abortions to do so safely and privately.

Where can I have an abortion?

Abortion service providers are located across Victoria in a range of health services and private practices. The costs, procedures and time required can vary from service to service. Having an abortion earlier in a pregnancy can minimise procedure costs and maximise your options.

To find surgical or medical abortion services in Victoria contact 1800 My Options phone line 1800 696 784.

Abortion and contraception

A new pregnancy can occur very soon after an abortion, so if you want to prevent pregnancy, you may want to discuss contraception options with your doctor or nurse.

Most contraception options can be initiated at the time of abortion or soon after, provided you do not have any medical conditions that make the option unsuitable.

If you choose a surgical abortion a contraceptive implant (Implanon NXT) or intrauterine device (IUD) can be inserted during the abortion while you are under light sedation.

If you choose medical abortion a contraceptive implant (Implanon NXT) can be inserted or a contraceptive injection can be given before you start your abortion tablets.

Where to get more information and support

If you are using the internet for information, only use reliable and reputable websites, such as the ones provided above. Be aware of anti-abortion or pro-life websites containing inaccurate and harmful information and imagery.


This website and any related materials are for general information purposes only and should not be relied on as (or in substitution for) medical or other professional advice. You should seek specific medical or professional advice for your individual circumstances.

Copyright ©

The copyright for material on this website is owned by Sexual Health Victoria (or, in some cases, by third parties) and is subject to the Copyright Act 1968. We permit you to reproduce or communicate our copyright material if you are a not-for-profit educational organisation, for the purpose of providing the information to your students provided that you include any disclaimers associated with that material. Any other reproduction or communication of our material requires our prior consent, via our consent form which you can complete and submit.

Last updated: 2 September 2021

Contact us


Telephone: 03 9257 0100 or freecall 1800 013 952

Fax: 03 9257 0111