Appointment: What to Expect

Environment

An appointment in a clinic or physician’s office is needed for all abortion methods. Providers offering abortion care can be found in a range of clinic settings, including stand-alone facilities where abortion care is the primary service, family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood, private and public hospital clinics, and in private physician practices. Depending on the clinic, individuals may find themselves in waiting rooms with patients seeking a variety of health care services other than abortion. While some clinics do experience protests, most have established protocols to help minimize the likelihood of patients encountering trouble with protesters. At some clinics, volunteer escorts are outside and available to walk with patients to the clinic entrance.

Gestational Limits

Abortions are provided up to around 23.5 weeks’ gestation in Illinois, though each clinic and provider determines their gestational range, depending on the clinic and the experience of the physicians. Anesthesia may or may not be offered or needed; patients should ask about this when making an appointment so they know what to expect. There are only a handful of physicians in the country openly performing third trimester procedures, and none in Illinois.

Counseling & Exam

An appointment includes reviewing health history, an exam and lab work. It includes a pelvic exam and/or ultrasound to confirm an intrauterine pregnancy and gestational age. This may take the form of a transvaginal or an abdominal ultrasound, which is part of common medical practice. Some state laws now require a provider to perform an ultrasound and review findings with patients, but Illinois does not currently require this. The appointment will also include a counseling session to discuss options and ensure that the pregnant person feels comfortable and informed about her decision. Patients should be advised to bring along any relevant health documents or ultrasound records – if they had a recent ultrasound, they may not need another, which can save money on the procedure. Those with insurance should also review their insurance information to determine whether their plan covers abortion, which providers are in their network, and whether they need a referral.

Procedure

No one is required to accompany a patient during a surgical abortion procedure (although many people do want support). Each provider has different policies regarding support people and how many people are allowed to accompany a patient to their appointment (including whether or not children are permitted).  It is recommended that a patient ask about these policies when scheduling an appointment. However, if a person is sedated for the procedure or takes Vicodin or Valium after the procedure, she must arrange a ride home. For a medical abortion, no one is required to accompany a patient at the clinic, but in case of emergency, someone should be available for assistance when she uses the second set of pills. Of note, Illinois law does requires that if a person is under 18, a parent or adult relative be notified at least 48 hours before the procedure, which is interpreted to mean before any medication to induce abortion is taken, unless a judge gives a waiver or other exceptions apply. More information on this requirement can be found in the section on Legal Considerations for Minors.