What to Expect at the Clinic

By OBOS Abortion Contributors | April 1, 2014

Outside the Clinic

Private doctors’ offices and clinics do not always attract protesters, but at some locations you may encounter “sidewalk counselors” and demonstrators.

If you are concerned, call ahead and ask what you might encounter. Abortion providers are usually well prepared. At clinics where demonstrators are common, escorts may meet you outside and accompany you into the clinic.

If you live nearby, you may want to drive by or go to the clinic ahead of time to get familiar with the area. Avoid direct contact with the protesters, even when they get close to you and say things that are mean and hurtful.

Medical History

Once inside the clinic, you’ll be asked to complete a medical history form. A health worker will check your vital signs (blood pressure, pulse and temperature), repeat a urine pregnancy test, and draw blood to check for anemia and the Rh factor. (Blood is either Rh-positive or Rh-negative; if you are Rh-negative and the fetus is Rh-positive, you’ll receive a blood derivative injection after the abortion to prevent the formation of antibodies during a subsequent pregnancy; see Aftercare for more information.)

Ultrasound

You may have an ultrasound exam to confirm how many weeks pregnant you are. The length of a pregnancy is usually counted from the first day of the last normal menstrual period (LMP). However, because LMP dating can be inaccurate, particularly for women with irregular menstrual cycles, most providers will perform an ultrasound exam to confirm the gestational age.

Many abortion providers now ask their patients if they would like to see the ultrasound image of their pregnancy during their appointment. Some women find the viewing helpful to their decision-making process. Others do not want to view the image. Either way, think about what you want and be sure to let the staff member performing your abortion know your preference.

Some states require women having an abortion to have, and then to view, an ultrasound. These laws are designed to discourage women from having an abortion. However, research indicates that women who are required to view their ultrasounds generally do not change their minds. To find out about the laws in your state, see this report from the Guttmacher Institute.

Counseling

A health worker or clinician will talk to you about your decision to have an abortion and tell you what to expect during and after the procedure.

The educational session is a time for you to ask questions and express any concerns. The clinic may also offer informational videos or group counseling sessions where you can talk with other women who are having abortions.

In some states, staff/health care workers are required to give you materials or information that will try to discourage you from having an abortion. This is not because they want to do so but because certain states require it as a result of anti-abortion politics.

Some states also require women to wait a certain amount of time before getting the abortion. To find out out if your state requires mandatory waiting periods, see this report from the Guttmacher Institute.

Once you have the information you need and your questions have been answered, you will be asked to sign consent forms.

The next steps in your visit depend on the type of abortion you are having. In most clinics, if you are less than nine weeks pregnant, you will be given the choice of a vacuum aspiration abortion (also called a surgical abortion) or a medication abortion.

Level of Care

Feel free to ask about anything that concerns you. Trust your feelings about the way you are treated on the phone (when you make the appointment) as well as in person. You should not have to defend yourself to anyone; you should feel supported in your decision and how you want your care to be provided. The good news is most women who have abortions in the United States are highly satisfied with their care.

A staff member at a clinic describes how it can and should be:

At our clinic, counselors are trained to help each woman sort out her feelings. We do not invade anyone’s privacy if she tells us that her decision is clear and not coerced, and that she does not want to discuss her reasons or feelings. At the same time, if she needs to talk through what she’s feeling, we spend time working through those emotions with her. Women talk with each other, not just with the counselor. We provide very detailed and accurate information about the abortion procedure. A woman can have a friend stay with her during the abortion. When there is a decision to be made, the woman herself is an active participant.