How I Talk With My Patients About Abortion Care and Access
An ob-gyn who offers abortion care shares the top questions she hears from patients.
As a doctor, I’ve heard a lot of questions from patients about abortion over the years. And with the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion access, I know there’s even more uncertainty out there now.
But my answers to questions about abortion care have not changed. The medical facts remain the same. Here, I’ll share some real questions I’ve heard from real patients, along with my answers. I’ll also link to resources that can help you find the health care you need and deserve.
Q: Is abortion safe? Is it common?
A: Abortion is very common and very safe.
In the United States, about 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by the time they’re 45. Most of them are already parents. And about half of the abortions that happen in the first trimester are medication abortions.
We have decades of research that proves abortion is extremely safe. That’s true of medication abortions and abortion procedures. In fact, abortion has lower complication rates than many other common medical procedures.
You may have heard false claims about long-term risks of abortion. Abortion does not affect your risk of breast cancer, mental health conditions, or infertility. There are no long-term health risks linked to abortion care.
Q: Why do you provide abortion care?
A: I offer abortion care out of a duty to care for my patients.
Most health care professionals who provide abortion care do so because they care deeply about the people who come to them needing help. Trained doctors, nurses, midwives, and other health care professionals all can offer abortion care safely. They are all trained to be highly skilled and compassionate.
I’m one of those health care professionals. I’m a doctor who’s spent 15 years training to become an expert in obstetrics (pregnancy care) and gynecology (care of the female reproductive system). I decided to specialize in a field called complex family planning, which means I went through extra training focused on abortion care and birth control.
I chose this field because it was important to me to take care of anyone needing my help—no matter their circumstances—and because I trust my patients to know what’s best for them in their own lives.
With every patient I see, my goal is to offer care that is based in respect, compassion, and science. My colleagues are all trained with the same goal.
Q: Do all abortions happen in a clinic or hospital?
A: Some do, but some abortions can happen at home.
If you’re in your first trimester, you may be able to have an abortion at home using medication prescribed by your health care professional. Follow-up can be done at an in-person or telehealth visit.
You may have also heard of “self-managed abortion.” This may involve requesting the pills online and getting them by mail. This can be safe too. Research shows that when people have access to accurate information about how to manage their abortions, they can do so safely on their own. The websites linked below share information on how this works.
Note that your state’s laws may control where you can take abortion medication pills. Your state may also control how and whether you can get the pills. See the links below to learn what’s legal where you live.
Q: How can I find help thinking about my options or finding abortion care?
A: Health care professionals like me can help. There are many resources that can help too.
Your health care professional should be able to talk with you about all your options if you are pregnant. They should be compassionate and judgment-free, and they should support whatever decision you make.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially in states with anti-abortion laws. If you can’t talk with your health care professional, there are online resources that are very useful.
If you’re deciding whether to continue a pregnancy, here are good starting points:
Pregnancy Choices: Raising the Baby, Adoption, and Abortion—Common questions and answers about all these options.
All-Options—A phone line you can call for peer counseling and support resources. They also offer counseling from trained clergy and religious leaders.
If you know you want an abortion, these links can help you find care:
National Abortion Federation—A hotline with abortion information and a directory to find abortion care. Also offers some financial help.
National Network of Abortion Funds—A directory of local abortion funds. These are organizations that can help you pay for abortion care. Your local abortion fund may also have up-to-date information on the laws in your state.
If/When/How—A legal help line that can answer questions about your legal rights and self-managed abortion.
Q: How can I avoid misinformation about abortion?
A: Be careful if you Google “abortion,” and watch out for crisis pregnancy centers.
There is a lot of false and misleading information online. Some of this misinformation comes from organizations known as crisis pregnancy centers. Their ads and websites make them look like clinics that offer abortion care, even though they do not. Instead, their goal is to convince you to continue your pregnancy.
These organizations may advertise with words like “pregnancy care center,” “pregnancy resource center,” or “pregnancy options.” Their websites may offer free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and “abortion consultation,” even though they do not provide abortions or accurate information about abortion. Sometimes, these clinics are not staffed by trained medical professionals.
If you are not sure about a clinic, try calling to ask, “Do you provide abortion care?” If they say no or do not give you a clear answer, you can end the call. Use one of the above links to find the help you need.
Q: What if my doctor doesn’t offer abortion care?
A: Ask about your rights and your options.
You may find yourself in a situation where you need abortion care, but your doctor cannot offer it to you. This may be because of the laws in your state, or because not all doctors and hospital systems offer the full range of reproductive health care.
Again, it may help to understand the current laws in your state. Doctors who do not offer abortion care should refer you to another doctor who does, unless referral is against the law in your state. Ask your doctor if a referral is an option. You can also ask your doctor if they are restricted in what they can say or recommend because of your state’s laws.
Remember, you can contact one of the above resources for help understanding your options and your rights. Abortion is essential health care, and that will never change.
Published: June 2022
Last reviewed: June 2022
Copyright 2023 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to health care. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. It is not legal advice. It should not replace the advice of a lawyer. ACOG does not endorse the products or services of any person or organization. Links to resources do not imply ACOG’s endorsement of the resource. The content in linked resources may change without notice. No one associated with ACOG will be liable for any loss, damage, or claim related to the information on this webpage. The use of this information is voluntary. Clinicians should be familiar with and comply with state restrictions on abortion, including medication abortion. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.