Finding a Reputable Abortion Clinic
If you or someone you know is seeking an abortion, there are several factors to consider when choosing a clinic. Namely, it is important to ensure that the health care provider is medically certified to provide an abortion, the clinic does not have any hidden moral agenda, and the facility is a sterile environment suitable for medical practice. Although abortion is both a safe and legal way to terminate pregnancy in all American states, it is important to consider that the availability of abortion services varies widely across the nation. When searching for a clinic, you will need to be aware that not all abortion facilities are equally accommodating, and you may need to travel some distance to receive the best, most affordable care. Generally, a good abortion clinic is one that provides dignified and professional physical, mental, and emotional care.1
Perhaps the most important criterion for choosing an abortion clinic is verifying that it employs licensed physicians and nurses who are certified to perform abortion procedures. In the United States, this means an abortion practitioner must have a standard physician’s license per regulation (at the state and federal levels) and any assisting nurses must also have the required state licensing. In other w
ords, the abortion practitioner should be a licensed doctor and any assisting staff should be Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) or Registered Nurses (RNs). Licensing may vary by state, so more information can be found in the public records for each state’s Department of Health Services (or their equivalent department).
In obstetrics and gynecology education today, less than half of residency programs offer routine training in abortion procedures. Furthermore, only 39% offer optional abortion procedure training. The number of abortion clinics nationwide has declined over recent years due to the dwindling number of abortion-practicing physicians and the general rise
in cost of abortion procedures. This, in addition to varying legislative restrictions, has led to an overall decrease in licensed abortion procedures by about 8%.2
Perhaps the most influential reason for the decline in abortion rates is the shrinking number of clinics and health care providers available to those seeking abortion. It is believed by women’s health experts that the actual number of abortions performed each year is unknown due to the decrease of professional practicing clinics. Historically speaking, in regions where abortions were unavailable (because they were illegal or highly stigmatized) many women still sought abortions from non-licensed persons in whatever conditions the procedure was available.2
Today, in areas of the world where abortions are unavailable in medical facilities, as many as 20 million unsafe abortions are performed on a yearly basis. The results of unsafe abortion practices are clear. Each year, approximately 68,000 women die, and millions more experience complications that compromise their health temporarily or permanently.2
Hidden Moral Agendas
Although a majority of Americans polled in 2005 believed abortions should be legal under certain or all circumstances (55% and 24% respectively), there remained a minority of Americans (21%) who believed abortions should be illegal under all circumstances. Recently, there has been a growing trend towards “conditional acceptance” in which abortions are considered acceptable in cases of rape, endangered maternal or fetal health, or strong indications of defects in the developing fetus. Most importantly, when given the freedom to choose on a continuum of the abortion debate, a vast majority of Americans fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.2
However, those who identify as uncoditional “pro-life” supporters typically do not follow such trends. They believe life begins at the moment of conception and that removing a developing fetus from the womb is equivalent to murder. Due to this extremity of opinion, some doctors who are willing to and capable of performing abortions refuse to do so out of fear of harassment or even violence. Furthermore, some groups and organizations who oppose abortion pose as willing providers in order to lure women seeking information on abortion into a conversation that attempts to sway them from their goals.
Women seeking a reputable clinic (for information or a procedure) should be cautious of facilities where clinicians do the following:
Refuse to give out complete contraceptive information.
Falsely advertise health services that they do not provide.
Give free pregnancy tests and ambiguous answers.
Show shocking films and handouts designed to scare women away from abortion.
Attempt to induce guilt by performing ultrasounds and personifying the fetus.
Clinics that actively support a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy do not participate in any of the above activities. Reputable abortion clinics are respected, trustworthy, established facilities that encourage women, without bias, to be well-informed of all their options. Such establishments support the physical and mental health of all women, regardless of their beliefs or decisions. Certified, dignified, and professional practices will do the following:
Have strong, established reputations.
Meet all certifications for the procedures they offer.
Offer contraception and complete information about birth control.
Have sterile facilities and practice cleanliness.
Employ licensed nurses and physicians.
Sterile Medical Environment
First impressions matter. Upon entering any medical facility, you should receive the impression that it is a clean, sterile, and organized environment. If the facility seems chaotic, unclean, or unkept, you reserve the right to leave and choose another facility. Any facil
ity that provides medical procedures is required to abide state and federal laws regarding the regulation of sanitation and health practices.
If you choose a facility upon a satisfying first impression but find the conditions in which your abortion procedure is being performed unsatisfactory (e.g., unclean rooms, tools, etc.), you may leave the facility at any time. If you suspect medical malpractice or unsanitary conditions, it is wise to choose another facility in which you feel more comfortable, and report the previous facility to the state’s Department of Health (or their equivalent department). Medical practices in the United States are held to strict standards regarding their cleanliness and sterility and can lose their licenses in the event of unsatisfactory inspections.
Availability by Region
The availability of abortion services across the United States varies by location. Unfortunately, one-third of all American women still live in counties without a single abortion provider, despite the fact that abortion is legal in all 50 states. Large metropolitan areas (densely populated, urban cities) typically contain plenty of abortion providers, and women are typically able to find competitively priced procedures in such areas.
In more rural areas and the general South, it is extremely difficult for many women to find abortion providers, if they find any at all. Women residing in some southern states, such as Mississippi, are limited to one provider within the entire state because anti-abortionists dominate the state’s political spheres. This makes it painfully difficult for these women to find legitimate providers who support their right to choose, and oftentimes women must seek quality providers elsewhere.
However, time and cost of travel can make it nearly impossible for women in these areas to receive a legitimate procedure and the proper care required before and after. Additionally, the stigma associated with abortion in such areas can sometimes be enough to turn women away from the possibility of even considering the procedure.
Legality of Abortion
Under federal protection from the historic Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is currently a legal way to terminate a pregnancy in the United States. However, stat
es are permitted to impose restrictions limiting the availability of the procedure. Therefore, access to abortion services may be restricted depending on one’s state of residence. Consult your state’s abortion laws to find out if if enforces any restrictions on the procedure. Examples of popular restrictions are listed below:
Trimester of pregnancy
Notification of husband (which also requires marriage)
A “waiting period”
In closing, abortion in the United States is both a legal and safe option for women who do not wish to carry a pregnancy to term. Although it may be more or less difficult to receive an abortion depending on the region of residence, any clinic that provides abortion services should provide high quality physical and mental care, and treat all patients in a dignified manner.
To see what availabilities and restrictions there are on abortion procedures in your state of residence (U.S only), please visit the Guttmacher Institute's webpage or click the link below to see a comparison chart.
Availabilities and restrictions by state (as of October 1st, 2014).
1. Abortion Care Network
2. Hyde, Janet and John D. Delamater. Understanding Human Sexuality, 11th Ed. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2011.
Last Updated 22 May 2014.