An abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy. Safe access to abortion is a vital part of healthcare. Family planning services may reduce the need for abortions, as they can help prevent unintended pregnancies. This may be helpful for those who live in abortion-restricted states.
Family planning is when a person determines the desire for, frequency, and spacing of any potential pregnancies. A person can use family planning services to help prevent any unintended pregnancies.
Abortion is legal in the United States. However, certain states have restrictions on abortion based on factors, including gestational age or the viability of the pregnancy.
Sometimes a person may notice that medical professionals mention spontaneous abortion. This is the medical term for pregnancy loss.
Read on to learn more about abortions, how to prevent unintended pregnancies, and support options.
The table below includes some of the many types of available contraception:
|Type of birth control||When to use||Efficacy||Cost||Where to find|
|Condom||before every sexual encounter||85–98%||$0–2||• family planning clinics|
• healthcare professionals
|Birth control pills||once a day, even when not sexually active||91–99%||$0–50||• doctor’s office|
• health clinic
• family planning clinic
|Implant||lasts up to 5 years||99%||$0–1,300||• family planning clinics|
• nurse or doctor
|Intrauterine devices (IUDs)||lasts 3–12 years||99%||$0–1,300||doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional|
|Injection||every 3 months||94%||$0–150||doctor or family planning clinic|
|Patch||replaced every week||91–99%||$0–150||• healthcare professionals|
• health clinics
• family planning clinics
|Birth control ring||taken in and out once a month||91–99%||$0–200||• healthcare professionals|
• health clinics
• family planning clinics
|Diaphragm||before every sexual encounter||88–94%||$0–75||• pharmacy|
• health center with a prescription from a healthcare professional
|Cervical cap||before every sexual encounter||71–86%||$0–90||• pharmacy|
• health center with a prescription from a healthcare professional
|Internal condom||before every sexual encounter||79–95%||$0–3||• family planning clinics|
• health clinics
• by prescription in drugstores
|Birth control sponge||before every sexual encounter||76–88%||$0–50||• family planning clinics|
• healthcare professionals
|Spermicide and gel||before every sexual encounter||72–86%||$0–270||• family planning clinics|
• healthcare professionals
A person may be able to get free contraception if they have health insurance. Family planning clinics or health centers may also provide free or cheaper contraception.
If a person is unsure about suitable contraception for them, they can speak with a healthcare professional. This can be a doctor or a healthcare professional at a clinic.
Learn more about birth control:
- What types of birth control are there?
- Where to get free or low-cost birth control: What to know
- Female (internal) condom: Review and where to buy
- What to know about nonhormonal birth control
- What to know about birth control for teens
- How to get birth control online: Birth control delivery options
- The Pill Club review: Is it trustworthy?
- 2022 Nurx review: What to know
- SimpleHealth review: Everything you need to know for 2022
If a person does not want to use contraceptives, they can try natural family planning.
- Withdrawal: Also known as the “pull-out method,” withdrawal involves a person removing their penis from the vagina before ejaculating. Withdrawal is around 78% effective.
- Breast or chestfeeding as birth control: When a person exclusively breast or chest feeds their baby, meaning that they nurse every 4–6 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night, they do not ovulate for the first 6 months. However, a person will not know when they begin ovulating as this occurs before the first period. If the infant is eating other foods, ovulation will begin. Using breast or chestfeeding as a method of birth control can be 98% effective when a person uses it correctly.
- Outercourse and abstinence: Abstinence is when a person avoids having sex. Outercourse is sexual activity that does not involve vaginal sex. If a person is not having vaginal sex, they cannot become pregnant. These methods are 100% effective against pregnancy.
- Fertility awareness methods (FAMs): This involves tracking a person’s ovulation cycle to determine when they are most fertile. FAMs are around 76–88% effective at preventing pregnancy. Cycle tracking apps can help a person understand when they are ovulating. Two examples of these apps include Clue Period & Cycle Tracker and Natural Cycles.
Find out more about natural family planning.
A person may not want to have any children or decide not to have more children. There are permanent surgical options available in these cases, known as sterilization.
A healthcare professional will perform these procedures at a doctor’s clinic, hospital, or health clinic.
Sterilization options include:
Tubal litigation is an operation that permanently blocks, clips, or removes part of the fallopian tubes. Tubal litigation is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Tubal litigation can cost between $0–6,000.
A person may also have the option to get a bilateral salpingectomy, which is surgery to remove the fallopian tubes entirely.
There are two types of vasectomy a person can have:
- Incision vasectomy: This procedure involves a doctor making an incision into a person’s scrotum. After the procedure, a person will require stitches.
- Laser vasectomy: This procedure involves a doctor inserting a small needle into the scrotum. The doctor removes the vas deferens through the hole and severs it. This operation requires no stitches.
If a person does not have health insurance, they may be able to apply for Medicaid or state programs that help with the cost of birth control.
Services such as Planned Parenthood may reduce the cost of certain procedures depending on a person’s income. A person can find their local Planned Parenthood using this search tool.
Are there age restrictions for sterilization procedures?
There is no legal age requirement for a person in the U.S. to have a sterilization procedure. However, if a person is using Medicaid or another federally funded service, they must be at least 21 years old.
A doctor may also refuse to sterilize a person if they are under 30 years. Research from 2017 found that females aged 18–24 were more likely to attempt sterilization reversal than females over 30. Reversal is not always successful, and people may consider it a permanent method.
Currently, 18 states allow doctors to refuse to provide sterilization procedures. This can be for any reason, such as age or the doctor’s own beliefs.
If a doctor has refused to perform sterilization procedures, a person can try going to another doctor.
Family planning services, such as Planned Parenthood, may be able to help a person find a doctor who will perform the procedure.
Emergency contraception methods include:
- IUDs that a healthcare professional can implant up to 5 days after intercourse.
- Ella, which is an emergency birth control pill that works up to 5 days after intercourse.
- Emergency birth control pills that are most effective up to 3 days after intercourse, such as Plan B, Option 2, or Preventeza.
Emergency contraceptives work best when a person uses them as soon as possible.
A person can purchase emergency birth control pills, such as Plan B, without a prescription at most pharmacies, drugstores, or superstores. These pills can cost between $11–50. If a person has Medicaid or health insurance, they may be free.
A person can only obtain Ella with a prescription. This pill costs around $50, although a person may get it free with health insurance or Medicaid.
Find out more about emergency contraception.
What options are available if the pharmacist refuses to dispense the medication?
Certain pharmacists may refuse to dispense emergency contraceptives on personal grounds.
If this occurs, a person should try another pharmacy or look for Planned Parenthood clinics in their area.
A person can become pregnant even if they use contraception. If a person has an unintended pregnancy, they can speak with a healthcare professional or family planning clinic about what to do next.
Options for a person who has become pregnant unintentionally include:
- Keep the baby: A person who has an unintended pregnancy may decide they want to have the baby. Healthcare professionals, health clinics, and family planning clinics can help a person prepare for pregnancy and giving birth.
- Adoption: A person who does not want to keep the baby after giving birth can place it in adoptive care. Adoption centers can help a person decide on an adoptive family for the baby.
- Abortion: If a person does not want to continue with an unintended pregnancy, they can have an abortion. A person can speak with their doctor or a family planning clinic about having an abortion. Abortion laws vary from state to state.
For those considering adoption, people may wish to contact the National Council for Adoption. This organization can help people to learn more about adoption and provide resources.
Options after sexual violence
In some cases, the government or health insurance providers will provide funding for those who choose to undergo an abortion after surviving sexual violence.
A person can use Planned Parenthood’s online search tool to check potential requirements based on their state.
People may wish to find help using the following organizations:
- National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
A person may be able to access local counselors using the above organizations.
Options after the discovery of a fetal anomaly
A person can have certain tests and screenings to check for fetal anomalies. If a person discovers that the fetus has a serious anomaly, they may have the option to get an abortion.
A person may choose to have an abortion. This can be because:
- they do not feel prepared to care for the child
- they may not have the resources to care for the child
- the fetus is not viable, which means that the fetus will not develop or survive outside of the womb
Certain states do not permit abortion in cases of fetal anomalies. In these cases, a person may need to go out of state for access to abortion care.
Other people may continue with their pregnancy after discovering a fetal anomaly. In these cases, they can talk with a healthcare professional about their next steps.
People living in a state where abortion is restricted can contact their local Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood states it will be able to determine whether a person can get the care they need depending on their state. They will also help connect people with the required resources and financial assistance to obtain out-of-state care.
Options for minors
It is legal for a person of any age to have an abortion in the U.S. However, if a person is under 18, they may need to have parental consent before having an abortion in certain states.
Some states will also only allow abortions for minors in cases of abuse or medical emergency.
A person should consult a healthcare professional, family planning clinic, or health clinic about the available options.
To learn more about their options, a person can visit the following:
Planned Parenthood provides an online tool to help people find the nearest abortion clinic.
This is an online tool to help provide people with their available options.
A person can find a verified abortion provider here.
National Abortion Federation (NAF)
The NAF offers confidential consultations, options for counseling, and limited financial assistance to help people pay for their abortion care.
Contact them here:
CPCs are clinics that appear to be health centers. They may also come in the form of mobile vans.
Their purpose is to scare, pressure, or shame a person into not going through with an abortion.
Signs to help identify CPCs include the following:
- On map apps and online, they may refer to themselves as:
- pregnancy resource center
- pregnancy care center
- abortion alternatives
- pregnancy help center
- women’s resource center
- Despite refusing to help people get abortions, they state that they can provide:
- free pregnancy tests
- abortion education
- post-abortion care
- after-abortion help
- pre-abortion screenings
- Despite being untrue, they state that:
- a person can reverse an abortion
- abortions are unsafe
- abortion is illegal
- They pressure people into continuing their pregnancy.
- They try to discuss religion.
A person can use the following tools to help identify fake clinics:
Proper care is important for a person’s mental and physical well-being following an abortion.
Side effects of abortion can include:
- bleeding that can last between 2–6 weeks
- discharge that can be black, brown, or mucus-like
It is important for a person to rest and recover after an abortion. They should not exercise strenuously for a week after the procedure. Additionally, increased activity can lead to bleeding and cramping.
A person may feel a range of emotions after they have an abortion, such as:
Some feelings may be due to hormonal changes that occur after an abortion.
For some people, the decision to undergo an abortion can be an emotionally challenging experience depending on their circumstances.
An individual may wish to speak with friends, family, or support services if they are experiencing emotional challenges following an abortion.
Do abortions lead to health complications?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) notes that some state laws require a healthcare professional to provide people with false information regarding the risks related to abortion. Abortion does not increase a person’s chance of developing infertility, depression, or breast cancer.
Abortions are safe, and major complications following an abortion are rare.
Rare risks from abortion include:
- incomplete abortion, which is when doctors have not completely removed the pregnancy
- damage to the uterus or other organs
Abnormal side effects of abortion include:
- heavy, prolonged bleeding that soaks through two or more maxi pads in an hour for 2 hours in a row
- severe pain or cramping
- chills and a fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or more following the day of the procedure
- nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea that lasts more than 1 day
- foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- depression that will not go away
- still feeling pregnant more than 2 weeks after the procedure
If a person experiences any abnormal symptoms following an abortion, they should seek urgent medical assistance.
For some people, the decision to undergo an abortion can be emotionally taxing. A person may also be affected by the opinions of family and friends, as well as society in general. It is important that the loved ones of a person who has had an abortion treat them with compassion and understanding.
If a person is experiencing challenges with their mental health after having an abortion, they can speak with a healthcare professional. A healthcare professional may recommend treatments such as medication or therapy.
People who are denied abortions can also experience poor mental health. The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that these people are more likely to experience:
- higher levels of anxiety
- lower self-esteem
- lower life satisfaction
A person may turn to friends or family members for support after having an abortion. However, some people who have abortions experience negativity from loved ones.
It is important for a person to remember that it is their body, and no one else can tell them what to do with it.
Support options are available for a person who needs help after having an abortion. This can include in-person support, support over the phone, or online support.
Services that provide care and support for people who have had an abortion include:
The cost of an abortion can vary depending on where a person has the procedure. Abortions can cost up to $750.
However, people who have health insurance or are on Medicaid may get them for a lower cost or for free.
It is important to remember that abortion will still be legally protected in some states. However, due to the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Roe vs. Wade, some states may make all forms of abortion illegal.
Certain states may also make it illegal for their citizens to have abortions in other states.
Other states may restrict access to abortions. That may mean they limit the timeframe for abortion or only allow them in medical emergencies.
A person can use the Guttmacher Institute’s online map to check the abortion policies in their state.
If a person cannot afford to have an abortion, some charities can help pay for them. The National Network of Abortion Funds has a comprehensive list of abortion access funds in every state.
In certain states, a person may be investigated, arrested, or prosecuted for having an abortion. The Repo Legal Defense Fund helps pay bail and attorney fees for people criminalized for having an abortion.
Family planning can help a person decide if, when, and how they want to have children. There are many forms of contraception a person can use to avoid pregnancy. However, contraception can sometimes fail.
Should a person decide to end a pregnancy, services are available to help them every step of the way. Support is also available following an abortion.
Abortion is a vital part of healthcare. Denying safe access to abortions can lead to people seeking potentially dangerous alternatives.