How painful is an abortion?
There are two types of termination of pregnancy: medical and surgical.
A medical termination of pregnancy involves taking medicine to end to the pregnancy. A patient may need paracetamol (aminocetaphen) or similar medicine for period-like cramping when the pregnancy is ending. She needs to rest, to have a friend or partner nearby and to be near to medical help if needed.
In a surgical termination the contents of the uterus (including the embryo or fetus) are extracted from the uterus through the dilated cervix, using a straw like tube. The patient may be mildly sedated as other people have said. Local anesthesia is used in the cervix even when a patient is sedated to ensure that she is comfortable.
More commonly (I think) the procedure is performed with the patient awake (with someone holding her hand) using local anesthetic in the cervix. It’s a bit like getting local in your gum at the dentist — you can feel the first small needle but not much after that. There may be a (usually mild) cramping sensation as the uterus contracts when the contents of the uterus are extracted using a fine tube through the cervix.
The perception of the sensations of a termination — whether painful or not, and how difficult the pain is to bear — will be influenced by the woman’s feelings about ending the pregnancy and her feeling of safety and care during the procedure. Some women feel sad about ending a pregnancy, many just feel relieved. It depends on the circumstances. Safety, compassion and kindness are important, as in any medical procedure.
An abortion performed by a qualified and trained person is a very safe procedure and not particularly painful. There is often some cramping and bleeding in the following days and the woman is likely to need extra rest.