In a perfect world, abortion access would be easy. The minute you realized you needed an abortion, you’d be able to grab some abortion pills from the drugstore, or make an appointment with your regular gynecologist for a quick and easy vacuum aspiration. But we don’t live in a perfect world. In modern-day America, abortion access can be impossible at worst and fraught at best: even in “safe” states like California and New York, abortion pills are heavily restricted and can be pretty pricey. And since few gynecologists offer abortion services out of their private practice, you need to find a specialized clinic—which can be a challenging process, particularly since many anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” are easy to confuse with actual abortion providers.
And chillingly, things are only going to get worse. Across the country, expansive bans like Texas’ Senate Bill 8 have rendered abortion functionally inaccessible; now, with the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, access is about to disappear in close to half of America. No one is safe from these bans: Even if abortion rights are legally protected in your home state, an influx of patients from other states is likely to tax an already overstressed system, making appointments difficult to get.
All of this is exacerbated by a general truth about abortion: Most people don’t actually think about how they’re going to get one until they’re dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. But that is something you can change. One of the best things you can do in our post-Roe world is know your options ahead of time and make an abortion access plan long before you need one—and share that information with others, so they can be prepared as well.
What Abortion Method Is Right for Me?
There are two main types of abortion, surgical and medical (also known as medication abortion or abortion with pills). A surgical abortion is performed by a trained professional, who uses techniques like vacuum aspiration or dilation and curettage (D&C) to empty the contents of a uterus. In a medication abortion, a combination of pills (either mifepristone and misoprostol, or misoprostol on its own) is used to induce a miscarriage. There are pluses and minuses to each method. A surgical abortion requires traveling to a clinic, but it’s over and done quickly. A medication abortion can be done from anywhere, but it usually takes a few days for the abortion to be complete. Additionally, not everyone can do an abortion with pills: If you have a bleeding disorder, an IUD, or need an abortion later in pregnancy, a surgical abortion might be your safest bet.
Your abortion plan is going to look different depending on whether you opt for a surgical or medication abortion, so it’s good to learn about both and decide early on which option feels like the best fit for you. If you can do a medication abortion, it might be the better choice; as abortion clinics get swamped with clients, wait times for appointments increase. The longer you wait to get an abortion, the more complicated and expensive it can get. Ultimately, a medication abortion now can be a better option than a surgical abortion in a few weeks—even if a surgical abortion would be your first choice in an ideal scenario.
Where Is My Closest Abortion Provider?
If you do choose a surgical abortion, your first stop should be Abortion Finder, a database of hundreds of trusted and verified abortion providers in the United States. Unlike Google, which sometimes turns up anti-abortion organizations when you search for an abortion clinic, Abortion Finder will show you only actual abortion providers, along with the relevant abortion laws in that state. If you live in a state with severe abortion restrictions, Abortion Finder’s filters allow you to find the nearest clinic that meets your needs—a clinic that doesn’t require a waiting period, one that will provide an abortion after six weeks, or whatever else you may be looking for.
If a medication abortion is a good option for you, there are even more resources available. While you can go to a brick-and-mortar clinic to get your abortion pills, research has repeatedly shown that taking these pills at home, by yourself, is just as safe as taking them in a doctor’s presence. Plan C maintains a large database of verified abortion pill providers, including both telehealth services that provide support through the abortion process and online pharmacies that will mail you the pills with no additional support.
What If Abortion Is Illegal in My State?
Even if abortion is illegal where you are, abortion with pills is still an option. If you’re able to travel to a state where abortion is legal, a telehealth service can mail you the pills there. And if you’re not able to travel, the European site AidAccess will connect you with an Indian pharmacy that sends abortion pills to all 50 US states, regardless of abortion laws. Because abortion is time sensitive, and the process of getting pills sent from India can take a few weeks, AidAccess is also willing to prescribe abortion pills to people who aren’t currently pregnant in case they need them in the future. That’s right: You can go to AidAccess and get abortion pills right now. (How’s that for planning ahead?)
Anything Else I Should Know?
While an abortion with pills is incredibly safe, going it alone can be intimidating. Thankfully, a number of sites have been set up to walk people through the process of self-managing an abortion with pills. How to Use Abortion Pill and Self-managed Abortion; Safe and Supported offer everything you need to know about both mifepristone-misoprostol and misoprostol-only abortions. There’s also the Reprocare Healthline, which offers peer-based, trauma-informed emotional support to anyone having an abortion at home with pills. And although self-managed abortion with pills is medically very safe, it’s important to know that it can come with legal risks, especially if you live in a state where abortion is illegal. The Repro Legal Helpline is a free, confidential helpline that provides information and advice to people seeking to self-manage their abortions. And if you wind up getting in trouble, the Repro Legal Defense Fund provides bail and legal defense for people who’ve been investigated, arrested, or prosecuted for self-managed abortion.
No matter what kind of abortion you get, it’s likely going to cost you money—not just the abortion itself but potentially travel expenses as well. If you can put money aside for a future abortion, great! But since many people opt for abortion because of financial issues, that’s not necessarily a realistic option. Abortion funds can provide help. The National Network of Abortion Funds will connect you to an organization that will help you sort out your financial and logistical needs and do everything they can to remove the barriers between you and your abortion. (Looking to support abortion access? Donating to abortion funds is a great idea—as is donating to independent clinics.)
Everyone deserves easy access to a safe, affordable abortion. There’s no question that the United States is on the wrong track and that the abandonment of abortion rights will needlessly hurt many pregnant people. But if you need an abortion, please know that you are not alone. There are many, many people and services willing and eager to help you get the care you need. The biggest hurdle is knowing where to find them—and you’ve just overcome it.