Not all abortion clinics are alike. Since many people do not talk openly about abortion, it is difficult to know what to expect. The levels of quality vary widely among providers, from the minimum required to operate a facility to clinics who go above and beyond to provide good service. Choosing an abortion clinic is much like choosing any other health care service provider. Unfortunately, sometimes there are not many abortion clinics to choose from, since few doctors provide these services. Base your choice not on a nice ad, location, or fee, but on the level of quality of their services as a whole. Here are some guidelines to follow when choosing an abortion provider:
1. DO NOT TRUST THE PHONE BOOK!
Just because the ad is big or looks nice, it does not mean that it is a good facility. Furthermore, the ad may not be completely truthful. Before you call, do further investigating. Many times clinics advertise that they are located in a specific town, but when you call they may say "we're near there" or "we're not open there yet" - be careful... you may be in for a longer trip than you first thought. You may find they are actually in another state. If they are not truthful in their yellow page ad it is a red flag - find out more about this clinic. Further, if you find that a clinic is giving out false information, call the phone directory and the better business bureau to complain.
2. Get a referral from someone you trust.
If there is a friend or family member you feel comfortable asking, talk to that person. You can also anonymously call a local hospital or physician's office that you trust and ask them who they refer to for abortion services. Call national organizations, such as the National Abortion Federation or the Abortion Care Network, whose members have to abide by high standards of high medical and counseling care.
3. Call the clinic on the phone.
How do they sound? Are they friendly? Do they listen? Do they answer all of your questions? Ask if you can set up an appointment to see their clinic before actually making an appointment. Is the clinic actually located where the ad in the phone book says it is?
4. Ask about their services.
What do they offer? Is your support person allowed to participate in any part of the process? How many visits are required? What is the procedure like? What types of anesthesia are offered and what are the risks? Who administers the anesthesia and what are his/her qualifications? Do they offer routine services as well? What type of medical protocols do they follow? What do they do in case of an emergency? Do they provide free options counseling?
5. Ask about their fees.
Do the fees sound "too good to be true?" If they do, they probably are. Some clinics tell you a lower fee when you first call but you end up paying more for services that were not included. Find out which charges are included in the fee. Is a follow-up exam included (this is a necessary exam that, if not included, may cost an extra $50 - $100) Are all medications included? Is an ultrasound included? Is the price of anesthesia included? Is a method of birth control included? Is counseling included? Do they participate in insurance plans? Do they give reduced fees if you are a student or if you have medical assistance? Do they provide funding or will they assist you in funding if you cannot come up with the whole fee? If you cannot come up with the fee, will they turn you away? Are there payment plans?
6. Ask about the qualifications of their doctors and staff.
Both OB/GYNs and non-OB/GYNs perform abortions. Things to ask include: How many procedures has he/she performed? Where was he/she trained, and who were they trained by? What degrees does he/she have? What is his/her specialty? Does he/she have any hospital admitting privileges anywhere? Has the physician lost his or her license in any other states? Although you may not be able to get the name of the physician because of confidentiality issues, you can ask about how the physician was trained and what his or her credentials are.
What about the staff? Do they have Registered Nurses on staff? What about the counselors? Who provides counseling and what is their training? Will the counselor talk to you about your decision at no charge if you are unsure? Are there counselors available to accompany you in the procedure if you request it? Do the counselors provide post-abortion counseling if you need it?
7. Take a look at the clinic and the staff.
Most clinics are busy, because there are not many providers. Is the clinic clean? What type of instruments do they use and how do they clean them? What is the atmosphere like? Is it cold and sterile or warm and friendly? What do you prefer? How is the staff? Do they dress professionally and appropriately? Do they act professionally and appropriately? Do they treat you as an individual and with respect and understanding? Can your partner talk with someone privately if he or she wants to? Are the procedure rooms clean and private? Do they have pamphlets on decision-making, birth control methods, and descriptions of the procedure including risks? Do they provide referrals for adoption and pre-natal care? Are their explanations thorough?
We know it can be difficult to trust a medical provider that you have never seen before and we hope these suggestions help. You really won't know exactly how your experience will be until you go through with it, but you do have some control over it. Be sure to give the staff feedback - both positive and negative - that will help them serve women better.
For a quality referral to an abortion provider in your area, try the National Abortion Federation's Provider Map!
REMEMBER…YOU DESERVE GOOD CARE!