This myth dates back to when abortion was illegal and therefore dangerous. Safe, legal abortion performed by qualified practitioners is very rarely associated with any future risk to fertility. Illegal abortions performed by unskilled practitioners in unhygienic conditions may increase the risk of future infertility if infection or uterine scarring occurs.
A pregnancy confirms a woman’s fertility, and most women return to their pre-pregnancy fertility immediately following the abortion. A small number of women experience a delay in the return of normal menstrual cycles. But many women can become pregnant again almost immediately after the termination, since the next ovulation takes place 10 – 14 days later.
Long-term risks of one abortion on infertility (as well as second-trimester miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight) were comprehensively reviewed in 1982 and updated in 1990. These reviews formed the basis for American Surgeon General Everett Koop’s conclusion that “the physical sequelae of abortion were no different than those found in women who carried pregnancy to term or who had never been pregnant.” Specifically, there are no significant risks for secondary infertility, either with surgical or medical abortion. However, if a surgical abortion is infected or complicated by pre-existing and non-treated STDs, the risks of secondary infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and fetal loss increase. This can be prevented with antibiotics given at the time of the abortion.
Expert David G. Grimes adds: “Early surgical abortions tended to be performed using a dilation and curettage (D&C) method, with an inherent but small risk of scarring that could potentially lead to complication. However, this technique is obsolete, replaced with a much safer and effective suction method in the early 1970s. In the 21st century, the WHO recommend a suction-based technique for surgical abortion, rendering the risk to future fertility negligible.”
The Baby Center India, Does a past abortion or termination affect my chances of getting pregnant?
New England Journal of Medicine, Medical Abortion and the Risk of Subsequent Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes (Virk et al, 2007)
David G. Grimes, The Guardian, A scientist weighs up the five main anti-abortion arguments (2015)