Abortion means choosing to end your pregnancy through a medical procedure rather than carry it to term and give birth. It is important that you consider all your options before making this decision.
Even though you’re still a teenager (and probably still a minor under the control of your parents), getting an abortion may still be an option for you. It is legal, common, and safe. This page lays out the process: making the decision, involving your parents (or not), where to get an abortion, how to pay for it, and what to expect during an abortion itself. There are even hotlines you can call in case you still have questions.
Even when you know you want to have an abortion, you will have to prove that you have explored all your options and have approached the situation thoughtfully and maturely. In other words, you’ll have to prove to someone that you are well-informed, and you know what you want, what you don’t want, and why. With that in mind, it is important that you read this page carefully and visit the other pages of this website, to learn about the adoption process and teen parenting, too.
Also, if you are seriously considering abortion, you need to act quickly. In Virginia you have 13 weeks and 6 days for a first trimester abortion, and you need to have permission (either from a judge or your parents), counseling, and an ultrasound completed before then. Abortions later in pregnancy are much harder to access because costs increase and the number of places in Virginia to have the procedure are very limited.
It can be confusing and scary to face an unintended pregnancy, but there are resources available to help you make your decision and access whatever care you decide is best for you.
Finding out you’re pregnant can cause a lot of different reactions. Shock, happiness, fear. It’s natural to have an intense emotional reaction and to feel confused. In fact, thinking about your emotions and feelings can help you figure out what to do about your pregnancy. Some questions to think about:
There are valuable online resources with more questions to thoughtfully consider when you find out you are pregnant, such as the Pregnancy Options Workbook.
As you think through these questions and examine your own feelings about abortion, adoption, or parenting, it may be helpful to have someone to talk to. You can talk with friends, family, faith leaders or other people you trust. A good resource is the Backline hotline at 1-888-493-0092. Their talkline provides confidential, judgement-free support to callers at any point before, during or after an experience with pregnancy, abortion, adoption, or parenting and supports the full spectrum of decisions and feelings.
Please be aware that there are more abortion methods than the ones covered on this page. This page only covers the abortion pill, vacuum aspiration, and dilation & curettage, which are the common first trimester abortion methods. The National Abortion Federation has more information on comparing different methods of abortion and deciding what is right for your situation.
As you consider having an abortion, you’ll need to learn about the medical procedure itself. There are two different types of abortions, a medication abortion and a surgical abortion.
When you visit a doctor for any type of abortion, you will talk to the health care provider there and go through some procedures before the abortion itself. You should expect to:
Medication abortion (also known as the “abortion pill”) is a method that is generally used up until the 7th-9th week of pregnancy. If you’re more than 9 weeks pregnant and want an abortion, you would need to have a surgical abortion (see below). The medical name for the abortion pill is mifepristone. It is sometimes called RU-486. The cost of a medication abortion ranges from $300-800.
The process happens in three steps.
There are very rare cases when the pill doesn’t work. You might have to take the pill again or have an abortion with a different method. A medication abortion is a very safe and effective method, but it’s always best to talk to the clinic about your questions, concerns, and what to expect when taking the abortion pill.
A surgical abortion is an in-office medical procedure that can be done up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. There are two types of surgical abortions. The first is called a “vacuum aspiration” and the second is called “dilation and curettage .”
During the procedure, you will lie on an examination table. Your health care provider will insert an instrument into your vagina that will hold the vaginal walls apart (this is called a speculum). The provider will then give you a local anesthesia to numb your cervix before instruments called dilators are used to open (dilate) the cervix.
A tube will be inserted into your uterus. The tube is attached to an aspirator (which uses suction like a vacuum and is either hand-held or a machine). This will gently remove what is inside your uterus. You might experience cramping during and after the abortion. It will take about 5 to 15 minutes. After it’s over, you’ll rest in a recovery room for at least 30 minutes, where the staff will monitor your recovery and make sure you’re okay before you go home. You’ll be given instructions on how to take care of yourself after the abortion and numbers to call in case you feel like something is wrong. You might also be given antibiotics or other prescriptions to take.
Dilationa and Curettage (D & C)
This can also be called “suction curettage.” Most of the procedure is the same as vacuum aspiration, this involves an extra step where the health care provider will use an instrument called a curette to scrape inside the uterus to make sure there is no tissue left.
If you’re 18 or older, you don’t need anyone else’s permission to get an abortion.
If you’re under 18 in Virginia, you have to go through an extra step if you want an abortion: getting permission. You can either get permission from one of your parents/guardians (you don’t need permission from both) or from a judge.
Getting Permission From a Parent
You might feel comfortable talking to one or both of your parents about an unplanned pregnancy and considering having an abortion. If you are able to do so, you should talk to a parent or guardian about the fact that you are pregnant as soon as you’re ready. Since every relationship between a child and parent is different, only you will be able to plan for this conversation, but try to be as open and honest as possible. Remember to approach the conversation with maturity, talk about the situation, your concerns, and what you want to do about the pregnancy. Let them see you’ve done your research. Be prepared for all kinds of reactions, including bad ones. Try to decide how you’re going to handle a bad reaction before you talk to them. It might be helpful to have a plan to stay with a friend or trusted relative if the conversation does not go well.
See also: “Mom, Dad, I’m Pregnant” from the Abortion Care Network
Getting Permission From a Judge
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to one of your parents about your pregnancy or it is not possible to do so, you can instead seek permission from a judge to have an abortion. Teens have many reasons for not wanting or not being able to tell their parents about their pregnancy or about considering abortion. Their parent/guardian may not be present in their life or able to be found and contacted. They may have parents or other family members who abuse them, or the pregnancy may be the result of sexual abuse or incest. They may have parents who take drugs or drink too much alcohol. They may have parents who forced an older sibling out of the house for becoming pregnant or having an abortion. They may just want to keep their pregnancy a secret. Whatever your reason, if you are not able to obtain consent from a parent or guardian, you will have to go through a judicial bypass in order to have an abortion.
A “judicial bypass” is how a teenager under 18 can get permission from a judge to have an abortion if she is unable to get parental consent, provided she can show she has considered all her options and is mature enough to make this decision on her own, and/or that an abortion is in her best interest. A judicial bypass is completely confidential, fast (it is supposed to take only a few days), and free. Your parent or guardian will not be able to see any court records; they will never be given out or shown to anyone. In fact, the records will be destroyed when your case is over. For more information and the step-by-step process for seeking a Judicial Bypass, click here.
First trimester abortions can cost anywhere from $300-$1000, but there are organizations out there that can try to help you overcome the obstacles you face when it comes to paying for your abortion.
If you are sure you want to have an abortion, it is important to start looking into your options and make a plan to do so as early as possible. As a pregnancy continues, the cost of an abortion increases, the number of places you can go to have the procedure decreases, and the potential risk of health complications from an abortion increases (though it is still small).
Abortion funds are non-profit organizations that help women make up the gap between what they can afford and the cost of an abortion procedure. If you live in Virginia and need help with figuring out how to pay for an abortion, please call the following numbers of visit the following websites:
When trying to get an abortion, make sure you put your health first. Never try to give yourself an abortion or allow someone who is not a trained medical professional to try to perform an abortion. Always seek care from a licensed clinic or women’s health center that you trust.
Avoid “Crisis Pregnancy Centers”! They are anti-abortion groups that do not offer abortions or referrals to get one. These centers are often located next to real abortion clinics, so make sure you’re going to the right place. The people who work at these centers will try to make you feel guilty and will try to pressure you into becoming a parent or choosing adoption without giving you all of your options, including abortion. They will also give you misleading or false information about abortion to try to scare you. If you are trying to get an abortion, make sure you visit a clinic or women’s health center. The following list of resources can give you a place to start your search for a clinic.
It is normal to feel a wide range of emotions when considering abortion, and you may need to talk to someone. If you still have questions or just want to talk, there are some great hotlines you can call. These hotlines are free, completely anonymous, and private. They provide unbiased information, will not judge you, and will answer any questions you have about your situation or the abortion process (including how to get money).
Bottom line, they are there to support you.
National Abortion Federation (NAF) Hotline, 1-800-772-9100
Weekdays, 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays, 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Monday-Thursday, 8:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Friday-Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Need someone to talk to for emotional support after you’ve had an abortion? Call the Exhale Hotline: 1-866-4-394253
Planned Parenthood: Abortion
The National Abortion Federation: resource for pregnant women
Glossary of Health Care Terms (from Planned Parenthood)
*Thank you to Jane’s Due Process for assistance in creating some of the material on this page.