What you might have wondered about the procedure, explained by the professionals.
Get the Facts
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It's hard to ignore that we are at a pivotal moment in history in terms of women's reproductive rights. But in addition to being an issue at the forefront of this year's election, abortion is also a very real experience that people face on a deeply personal level.
That's why, earlier this month, Refinery29 teamed up with Tumblr to open the floor to any questions you might have about abortion. We set up our Tumblr ask box, you asked the tough questions, and we recruited a panel of experts to answer them.
Among those experts were: Kristine Kippins, a federal policy counsel with the Center for Reproductive Rights, Jack Qu'emi Gutierrez, a writer and educator with We Testify and theNational Network of Abortion Funds, Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, Judy Waxman, a healthcare law and policy expert, and Sara Imershein, MD, MPH, a board-certified OB-GYN.
After receiving over a thousand questions, we, along with our panelists, carefully combed through them to choose the ones best suited to their expertise.
Overall, we wanted you to be able to learn more about the issues facing people who are considering getting an abortion, have had an abortion, or simply want to learn more about the option of getting one. With that in mind, we also chose to pay special attention to the practical problems facing those who are seeking an abortion (how do I pay for it? how much does it cost?).
You can take a look at all the answers on our Tumblr, but we've also chosen 10 standout questions and answers for you ahead. Click on to learn more about any concerns you might face while considering an abortion.
Photo: Abbie Winters
"I'm having an abortion tomorrow. Is there a place I can get support?"
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"Before an abortion, you will undergo extensive counseling to obtain your medical history, determine gestational age, and review your options, including continuing a pregnancy to birth and parent[ing], or adopt[ion], and the pregnancy termination options. These will be reviewed without judgement to help YOU decide the right course for you. Abortion clinics have trained staff who inform you, answer your questions, and support you during the procedure, if you choose. Some facilities have dedicated 'doulas' trained specifically to offer support during abortion procedures." — Dr. Sara Imershein, board-certified OB-GYN
"I'm glad we can be here to offer some information! A lot of people feel alone at the time of their abortion, and if information and support can help you, I'm so glad we're able to offer it. There are definitely resources for support during and after your abortion. Check out Backline. They offer...a nonjudgmental talkline where you can call and discuss any questions or feelings you're having. You can also check out this article on what to expect when having an abortion. They're a really great group that can help you talk through any confusing stuff you're feeling, any emotions you need to get out, and really help you feel less alone. They also have great resources to point you towards, like a community of people of faith who support your decision to have an abortion. You can also share your story at We Testify. A lot of people report feeling better once they've told someone else about their abortion, even anonymously. Often, it's not the abortion that makes us feel bad, but feeling like you don't have anyone to talk to about it. You'll find there's a whole bunch of great people who've had abortions, who love you and trust your reasons, and want to welcome you to this community." — Yamani Hernandez, executive director, National Network of Abortion Funds
Photo: Abbie Winters
"How does abortion work? Like, the operation?"
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"Abortions are completed with one of two methods: medication or a simple procedure. Medication is given to stop the pregnancy from growing, and additional medication causes the uterus to contract and expel the uterine lining normally lost during menses, along with the pregnancy tissue. The process occurs over one to two days, and oral pain medication is provided. Using medication for abortion is approximately 95-97% effective, less effective with increasing gestational age. In the few cases when medication alone doesn't work, the alternative office procedure is performed to complete the abortion.
"Alternatively, a first trimester abortion may be accomplished by a simple two- to five-minute procedure, which is not surgery. There is no cutting or suturing, and the procedure can easily be accomplished in a medical office or dedicated facility. The opening to the uterus, or cervix, is gently stretched, sometimes aided by medication to soften the cervix. Then, usually, a thin, hollow tube is inserted, and the lining of the uterus, which a woman would lose during her normal menstrual flow, is gently removed by aspirating the tissue, along with the pregnancy. The process is quick and nearly 100% effective. Both methods are extremely safe, far less risky than childbirth." — Dr. Imershein
Photo: Abbie Winters
"I recently had an abortion, and I'm struggling. Are there resources to help me?"
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"First, thank you for sharing your experience with us. Abortion experiences can bring up a lot of feelings, especially because we're often dealing with many of the situations surrounding the abortion itself. Most people, 95%, feel that abortion was the right decision for them and don't regret it. Often, talking about your abortion with a loved one or friend can help and give you space to process your experience. You can also call Backline and talk to their counselors about your experience. They will offer a nonjudgmental listening ear. Their number is (888) 493-0092. If you want to read abortion stories to know that you aren't alone, check out We Testify and the 1 in 3 Campaign." — Jack Qu'emu Gutierrez, We Testify, National Network Of Abortion Funds
"Even when a decision is right for you, it is not uncommon to think, what if? This is also true of many decisions we make in life. I call these 'what if' fantasies, rather than doubts. When asked, a 70-year-old woman told me about her illegal abortion before Roe. When figuring when it happened, she responded not with her age, nor the year...but told me how old the child of that never-completed pregnancy might have been. And she also never regretted her decision; at the time [of the abortion], she had three teenagers.
"Still, knowing these thoughts are common may not help you address your discomfort. Good for you for having insight to see you are not quite back to normal. You can give it time...but, here are free resources available:
EXHALE After Abortion Talkline: 1-866-4-EXHALE (1-866-439-4253)
Faith Aloud, Faith-Based Hotline: 1-888-717-5010
National Abortion Federation's 'What Should I Expect After Abortion' Aftercare & Follow-Up page. Look under 'Emotions.'" — Dr. Imershein
Photo: Abbie Winters
"Is my gynecologist required to tell my parents?"
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"This is a common concern for young people, and you are entitled to respectful and medically accurate answers to your questions. You are entitled to confidentiality, but sometimes if you're on a parent's insurance, you do have to ask about the procedures the office follows. While Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, keeps your health information safe, it may show up on the explanation of benefits, which is sent to the health insurance policyholder — often a parent, guardian, or partner. Before taking a pregnancy test, you can ask your gynecologist's office or any place that offers pregnancy tests how it will show up on the insurance paperwork and whether they call your parents. If they do, there are places where you can get a free, confidential pregnancy test so it won't show up on your insurance. If you're searching for a free pregnancy test, be aware that there are places called Crisis Pregnancy Centers that will lie to you about abortion and your pregnancy options. Steer clear and instead go to a local Planned Parenthood." — Hernandez
"Each State has its own regulations regarding parental notification. You can find an overview and specific laws pertaining to where you live at Guttmacher.org. Where notifying a parent is required, there must be a 'judicial bypass' procedure for minors who fear for their safety if forced to obtain parental permission. In most states, mothers at any age can consent to care for themselves and their minor children. (For medical care, a 16-year-old mother is not a minor, but an adult, who can consent for her own, or her child's, medical care). The rules may be different for contraception, abortion, and access to STI testing or treatment in each state."
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Photo: Abbie Winters