Choosing to get an abortion is a very personal decision, and only you can decide if it’s the right thing for your health and your body. When you find yourself dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, it’s important to inform yourself about your options so you feel comfortable moving forward. Some details, such as how much an abortion costs, may vary depending on your state and insurance provider, so it’s not an easy task to figure out. To understand how to sort through all these confusing legal and medical regulations, I spoke to several reproductive health and medical experts to put together a game plan for those who need it.
First of all, when you’re considering getting an abortion, it's best to start exploring your options ASAP. “Abortion is very safe, and the risks are lowest when abortion is done in the first three months of pregnancy,” says Dr. Gillian Dean, Senior Director of Medical Services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. According to the National Abortion Federation, 97 percent of people who get abortions in the first trimester report no complications, and of the 3 percent who do report complications, the vast majority can be handled quickly at the clinic.
The earlier you make your decision, the better, since some states ban abortion very early on in a pregnancy. Six states ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which happens as early as six weeks after fertilization (before some women even realize they are pregnant). As soon as you start considering the procedure, research the laws in your state to find out when you'll need to decide for certain.
If you are a minor, you will likely need parental consent to get an abortion. “Unfortunately, most states force young people under 18 to involve their parents in their decision to end a pregnancy,” explains Kimberly Inez McGuire, Executive Director of URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. “Most of these states require the consent or notification of only one parent, though some states require the involvement of both parents.” This list by Planned Parenthood will tell you the specific regulations in your state, or you can call your local clinic for more information.
Planned Parenthood has a website feature where you can enter your ZIP code and learn which clinics nearest you offer abortion services (even if those clinics are in a different state). You can also search for independent abortion providers through the Abortion Care Network. Before you go in, Dr. Dean suggests that to call the clinic to ask about age restrictions and waiting periods, since these can also vary according to state law. In many states, a patient is required to receive some form of counseling before getting an abortion, and there is often a specified waiting period (at least 24 hours) required between the counseling and the actual procedure.
Now that you know where to get an abortion… how much money should you expect to have to pay? If you’re using health insurance, it’s likely your plan will cover some or all of the cost. “Many private insurance plans will cover an abortion, but check your plan's benefits to be sure,” says David Belk, MD, internal medicine specialist and healthcare cost researcher. He suggests calling your insurance company for details on this — the phone number can be found on the back of your health insurance card. If you’re still on your parents’ plan, you can also call to see if they’ll be notified when you use insurance to get the procedure.
If you don't have health insurance, or if you're choosing to avoid using your parents' insurance plan, the cost of an abortion varies depending on which type you are getting. Medication abortions require patients to take a series of pills to end a pregnancy, with no surgical procedures or anesthesia needed. They can be used in the earliest weeks of pregnancy and may feel less invasive to some women than other methods. A surgical abortion takes place in a clinic, requires fewer office visits, and carries less risk of an incomplete procedure. Your local clinic can discuss your specific situation to determine which method you prefer or need.
Medication abortions usually cost around $500, but Dr. Dean notes that this can vary based on where you get the procedure done. A surgical abortion varies from “a few hundred dollars to $1,500 — like medication abortion, it depends on where you get it,” Dr. Dean explains. Different clinics, hospitals, and private doctors may have different prices, which you can ask about when you call ahead.
If the cost of the procedure is more than you can handle, there are abortion funds across the United States that exist to help patients with their healthcare costs. The National Network of Abortion Funds has a step-by-step guide for how to find your local abortion fund and learn whether you qualify for funding. “They may be able to help you with financial and logistical support, as well as thinking through how to raise funds yourself,” McGuire says. While they may not be able to cover the entire cost, they can help you figure out a way to make the procedure more affordable for you.
Planned Parenthood often adjusts costs for services depending on a patient’s income, explains Dr. Dean. It also tries to lower the discrepancy in cost between types of abortions. “We work hard to ensure that the costs of in-clinic and medication abortion are similar so that patients can decide which method is best for them,” she says. You shouldn’t have to feel like your options are limited based on financial constraints — and luckily, there are organizations out there to help you if this is the case.
When you’re reaching out to abortion clinics and providers, one crucial thing to look out for are imitation clinics run by anti-choice advocates, also known as Crisis Pregnancy Centers. “These fake clinics seem like medical centers that offer abortions or other health care services, but they’re actually run by people whose goal is to scare or shame people out of getting an abortion,” Dr. Dean cautions. Your best bet is to use a reputable source, like Planned Parenthood or the Abortion Care Network, to find care. “[Planned Parenthood will] give you expert care, accurate information about all your options, and non-judgmental support along the way — no matter what you decide about your pregnancy,” Dr. Dean assures. You should never have to feel shame or fear about your health decisions.
Ultimately, even though abortion laws are confusing, great resources exist to help you if you know where to look. If the cost is prohibitive, talk to your local clinic or abortion fund about what you can do to make it more affordable. Your decision about whether to terminate a pregnancy should never have to come down to a dollar amount — it’s a choice you have the right to make regardless of your circumstances. Your local advocate will help you understand your options so you can feel confident in your decision, whatever that may be.