The quality of care can vary widely among all medical facilities and since many people do not talk about their abortion experiences, it is often difficult to know what to look for when choosing a clinic. We believe that a quality provider serves both your physical and emotional health. There may be a number of abortion providers in your area. So, choosing a provider may involve more than a single phone call.
Here are some guidelines to help you choose a quality abortion provider who will offer you the best care, ensure comfort, and treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve.
1. Get a referral from someone you trust.
Call your local family planning clinic, hospital, doctor’s office, NARAL, abortion fund or student health services center for a referral. If you feel comfortable, ask a friend or family member if they know a good clinic in your area.
Be aware that there are places that pretend to be health clinics, but really want to prevent you from making your own decision about your pregnancy. Places with names like Crisis Pregnancy Center, Pregnancy Care Center, Pregnancy Aid, Birthright, Open Door, CareNet, Life Choices, Third Box or Pregnancy Counseling Center are against abortion. They are religious organizations, not health clinics.
2. Call or visit the clinic and ask about their services.
Every clinic may be a little different, depending on many factors including preference and state abortion laws. Here are some questions to ask specific to your visit:
Surgical vs. Medical Abortion
Some clinics only provide medical abortion (i.e., the abortion pill), others only surgical and some provide both. It’s important that you go to a clinic that will provide you the type of abortion care you prefer. Additionally, if you are unsure how far along you are in the pregnancy, you should ask both how early in the pregnancy you can receive care and how far along in pregnancy they provide services.
- The surgical abortion procedure itself usually takes only a few minutes, yet at a quality provider your procedure will take several hours. Quality providers ensure that counseling is provided, a medical history is obtained, and lab work is performed before you are readied for surgery. These are important opportunities for you to meet the medical team and to relax. Following surgery, patients need ample recovery time with medical and counseling staff available. Written and oral instructions on how to take care of yourself and what to do if you have a problem should be available.Surgical abortion is typically not preformed before 5-6 weeks gestation.
- Medical abortion (i.e., non-surgical abortion or the abortion pill) can be performed early in pregnancy. There are certain requirements and an experienced care provider should offer the information and be willing to answer your questions. After two weeks, it is very important for all patients to have a follow-up examination. Quality abortion providers will not charge for a surgical follow-up visit. Medical abortion is typically preformed up to 9-10 weeks.
Questions you may want to ask include: What type(s) of abortion do you offer? How early is abortion offered? How far in the pregnancy do you offer care? Will an ultrasound be done before the abortion to confirm the length of pregnancy? How long will the abortion take? How long will I be in the facility? Is there a 24-hour phone number for emergencies?
Additional questions for people interested in surgical abortions: Who will be in the room during the procedure? Can my partner or friend be with me? What qualifications does the doctor have? How long have they been performing abortions? Where do patients “recover” after surgery and for how long generally?
Quality abortion providers have health educators or counselors available who can answer questions or address concerns about all pregnancy options – parenthood, adoption and abortion. They should also have resources available to you for after-abortion care. Each person – even those who are very certain about their abortion decision – should have an opportunity to meet with a health counselor to discuss feelings and concerns. The counseling staff is there to support and help both patients and those who are with you in this experience.
Questions you may want to ask include: Do they offer counseling? If so, is it group or individual? Do they offer after-abortion counseling? If not, can they refer you to someone who does?
Most people report the cramping associated with abortion as tolerable. Others prefer not to experience any discomfort. Because general anesthesia carries a greater medical risk and is far more expensive, some clinics may offer IV or oral sedation and pain relievers. Discuss this with your provider.
Questions you may want to ask include: What types of anesthesia or other pain management options are offered?
Do the fees sound too good to be true? Be careful – the lowest fee does not mean you will get the quality care you deserve. There may also be additional costs for care you want or need not given to you in the initial quote.
Questions you may want to ask include: Does the fee quoted cover all possible costs (i.e., post-abortion check-up, lab tests, pain management, take-home prescriptions, a Rhogam injection if you have a RH negative blood type, etc.)? What methods of payment are offered? Will my insurance be accepted? Do they offer financial help or work with abortion assistance funds if you do not have the resources to pay? Do they offer a discount if you have Medicaid? Note: in the following 17 states Medicaid covers some or most of the costs of abortion care: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
3. Choose a clinic that makes you feel comfortable.
Questions you may want to ask yourself after you call or visit the clinic include: How does the staff sound over the phone? Are they friendly? Do they appear knowledgeable? Did they listen to you and answer all your questions? Was the clinic clean? Do you feel comfortable in the clinic? Does the staff dress and act professionally and appropriately? Do they treat you as an individual — with respect and understanding?
If possible, we recommended you call and/or visit a few providers in your area and get an impression of their staff and services.
Click here to find a list of Abortion Care Network member clinics we recommend in your area.