Photo-Illustration: Josiah Whitfield
life after roe

10 Women on Getting an Abortion in the End Days of Roe

“It felt like an insult.”

Photo-Illustration: Josiah Whitfield

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New York Magazine’s current issue gives abortion seekers the information they need to get care, including a directory of professional providers and other support services. Here, ten people who recently had abortions in states across the country tell the story of what it took to get one. Some managed to walk into a clinic and get the abortion pill; others endured mandatory sonograms and waiting periods up to several days; still others stood in line for hours in the face of anti-abortion protesters just for a consultation. A few connected with abortion funds to defray the costs of the procedure and the complicated logistics involved in getting it, but most didn’t, feeling that other patients were more in need — no matter how hard it was for them to pay out of pocket.

Jaylynn, 30, Houston

I found out I was pregnant in August 2021, the week before S.B. 8 — Texas’s ban on abortion after about six weeks — was going to go into effect. Counting back to my last period, I was five weeks and maybe a day pregnant. My immediate thought was, If I do want to get an abortion, will I be able to get one in Texas? That was very stress-inducing because not only did I have to make a decision, I had only a week to make it.

I made an appointment at a gyno office close to me one or two days later and asked them about terminating. They said they can’t discuss that option with me but wrote down the name and number of a doctor at an independent clinic on a yellow sticky note. I called the doctor from the car and made an appointment for four or five days out. They were able to give me an appointment a few days before September 1, when S.B. 8 went into effect — but in Texas, there’s a 24-hour mandatory waiting period between your counseling appointment and your actual procedure. They told me on the phone that they couldn’t guarantee a second appointment — if I was beyond six weeks, they were not going to be able to do a procedure for me. I was worried about the law, and my partner was worried about money: If I couldn’t have the abortion, we’d be out the cost of the first appointment.

Right before September 1, I went to the clinic. There were so many people in the lobby that they were calling us by numbers, they would say 5214 or 5215. I also had to look at this big packet of forms, where they detail things like If you have an abortion, are you aware of the possible complications? Are you aware of the possible consequences to your future fertility? These are not medically accurate, but you have to read through them and sign to have that counseling appointment. And it worked on me in the short term. I ended up leaving the clinic and telling my partner that I changed my mind.

After thinking about it for another week, I decided, okay, I do want to get an abortion. By then I was over six weeks pregnant and had to go out of state. I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood in Maryland, my home state. I didn’t really have a plan — I just figured I would get myself there. The person on the phone at PP asked if I needed help and connected me with the National Network of Abortion Funds. I called them to ask, “Are there resources for people that need to leave the state? What does that look like? Am I breaking any laws?”

One of the funds that NNAF connected me with is Fund Texas Choice, and they reached out to me and offered practical support. They enabled me to fly to Maryland and to stay in a hotel during the procedure, and then they connected other funds that were able to get my return flight back to Houston and provide me with a ride to and from the clinic. Fund Texas Choice was able to get me where I needed to be — at a time when I really felt like I had no one — because I didn’t feel comfortable telling friends and family in Maryland what was going on.

I had such a different experience in Maryland than I did in Texas. When I got to the Planned Parenthood, I didn’t have to sign medically inaccurate documents; I didn’t have to have a 24-hour waiting period; I was able to be counseled and have my medical abortion that same day. I was there for three nights in the hotel. Fortunately, I had a very flexible work schedule, and I did have sick time accumulated. But Fund Texas Choice doesn’t fund the procedure directly, only practical support. So I paid for the cost of the abortion on my own — $565.

Clare, 23, Detroit area

When I was ten weeks pregnant, I was at my husband’s birthday brunch when I got an email that said, “Test results.” It was the findings from my ultrasound the week prior. It just said, “Twin A, fetal demise. Twin B, still viable.” That’s how I found out that it was actually a twin pregnancy and that one had stopped growing.

I called the midwife group that I used with one of my previous pregnancies (I have two little kids), and the midwife asked that I schedule an ultrasound for two weeks after that to confirm that finding. Those two weeks were stressful, but we still were supposed to have one healthy, viable fetus. We went to that appointment assuming that we would find that Twin A had stopped growing and Twin B was fine. But what we found out was that Twin A had stopped growing and Twin B was sick in many ways. The doctor said Twin B had a cystic hygroma, a large pocket of fluid behind the neck. We were told that even if they don’t find what is behind the cystic hygroma, there was a 90 percent chance of a miscarriage or stillbirth.

This was at 12 weeks. We did NIPT testing, which is non-invasive prenatal testing, but it didn’t give us any clarity, and the cystic hygroma was already descending down his back. That usually turns into a situation where the fetus is swallowed by fluid, and it’s fatal. We scheduled another ultrasound for two weeks after that. I was starting to get frustrated because no health-care professional we talked to would use the word abortion.

A little after 15 weeks, I made my decision. I wanted to do it in a hospital instead of a private clinic because I experienced an abortion in Michigan in 2016 in a private clinic, and they put you through hell to get it. I got a vacuum aspiration abortion (an abortion procedure if you’re not very many weeks along) in 2016, and it’s a ten-minute procedure, but I was there for six hours. I had to watch a fearmongering video. I had to talk to a counselor and kind of convince her that I wanted an abortion. I started crying because I was overwhelmed, and she said, “I can’t let you have an abortion until you stop crying.” I had a vaginal ultrasound, which is really uncomfortable and totally unnecessary, and the tech played the heartbeat for me, which I didn’t want to hear. There’s also a 24-hour waiting period — you have a time-stamped informed consent that you print out, and then you can have an abortion 24 hours after. The informed consent is a bunch of websites that you have to click through that list crisis pregnancy centers and parenting tips and the size of your fetus compared to a vegetable. I had to fill out those forms this time, too, and it felt like an insult to have to read that my fetus was the size of corn.

I spoke on the phone with a doctor through my hospital who agreed to do the abortion. It took another two weeks to get in to see her. When I finally was able to go to the appointment, she suggested an abortion via labor induction. She said that she sees patients fare better emotionally that way, and that since I’ve had two previous easy vaginal deliveries, this would be better. She also said that I’d be able to hold him at the end, which was the number one thing I wanted for closure. But she said that it couldn’t be at our preferred hospital because apparently their staff didn’t want to be a part of an abortion, even when it’s a dying fetus.

Everyone rushed us to make a decision as fast as possible because an abortion early in pregnancy can be as little as $500, but the point I was at — 18 weeks — costs way more. We were given a quote by the hospital of $3,900, and the hospital kept saying, if anything goes wrong, it’ll be more. The labor induction ended up taking four days. I was given misoprostol, vaginally and orally, many times and Pitocin and foley bulbs. My body just wasn’t responding to the induction. My really wonderful parents took care of our kids, but the longer the procedure went on, the more stressed I became. How long is this going to take? How much is this going to cost? My husband was working from the hospital. I felt judgment from one of the hospital staff that I was taking up a room with an abortion.

Finally, I delivered him and got to hold him. And then we went home and waited for a bill. In Michigan, abortions aren’t covered by most insurance unless the parent’s life is in danger. My insurance ended up covering my abortion on what I assume was a technicality: At one point during my hospital stay, they couldn’t find a heartbeat, so I guess it was billed as an evacuation. Without insurance, the cost would have been $36,000. We paid nothing out of pocket.

Ellie, 19, Virginia

When I was three days late, I took a test. I actually took about a million of them. I was panicking. I didn’t get positive results at first. And then, randomly, one of my girlfriends texted me and asked if I could bring one over for her. I thought I was in the clear because I’d been getting negative results, but then she asked me to take one with her. Hers was negative and mine lit up like a Christmas tree.

I shut down. I couldn’t really freak out — my friend was there and her boyfriend was standing right outside the bathroom door. My friend was begging me to tell the guy, but I was like, “I think that’d be a bad idea.” It’s actually kind of embarrassing, but I’d only been officially dating the guy for two whole days. I wasn’t going to tell anybody — I would never have told her if she hadn’t been there when I found out. But later that night, we did go to the guy’s house. I told him, and he took it like a champ. He said, “Hold on and I’ll be right back,” and went to the other room and threw up for ten minutes. He sat down and played it cool, like Alright, what do you want to do? I told him I already had a plan and that I was gonna go to Planned Parenthood the next day.

I woke up very early, drove 30 minutes, and got there when it opened. I was terrified of running into somebody at the clinic or anybody finding out. That’s easy to happen here. Everybody knows everybody, and the rumors — my parents will even hear rumors, and they’re old. But I didn’t run into anyone.

Planned Parenthood had a cancellation, so I was able to be seen that day. My pregnancy was so early, they couldn’t even find the embryo on the ultrasound. They told me I could do the medication abortion that day. They took my blood and told me I had to go back three days later to get my blood drawn so that they could make sure that my levels went down and it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy. After taking the first pill, I left the clinic around noon and went back to my friend’s house, and I camped out there the rest of the day and slept and puked and cried. My mom thought I was at work the whole day. Because my parents didn’t know about the abortion, I didn’t try to use insurance. It cost about $700.

That next day, after taking the pills, it was like having the worst stomach bug in my life. I took two days off work. Planned Parenthood called me twice: to remind me to go get my blood drawn and then again a couple of days later to ask if I needed anything and how I was feeling. It’s easy to feel isolated, but they were awesome.

Krystal, 30, Milwaukee

I hadn’t been feeling very good, and my gentleman friend was like, Oh, you’re probably pregnant. I was like, Haha, hilarious, but the thought nestled in my mind for a couple of days. I had a test in my house from a friend of mine from years ago — it came in a two-pack — so on New Year’s Eve, I took it. It was immediately positive. Luckily, I live in Milwaukee, which is one of the few places in the state that has abortion clinics in it.

I made an appointment on New Year’s Eve at Planned Parenthood. The first appointment available was on January 18, just for the consultation. I was like, If it’s December 31, and the first available appointment is January 18, I better just book it. I thought about the Texas six-week rule. I found out I was pregnant before I had even missed a period, and still the earliest appointment I could get was after the six-week mark. In the meantime, I talked to my primary-care physician. She was really judgy. I had taken out my Nexplanon birth-control implant last year because of side effects and she was like, “Well, I told you this could happen.”

I wanted to go to the Planned Parenthood because they own the parking lot, so no one can come in. Protesters have to stay on the sidewalk. There is an independent clinic in our town, but it’s on a city street where there is no parking lot, so there’s always awful people hanging out over there with signs on sticks of mangled babies.

I took my friend from work to the consultation because the guy I was seeing was being kind of a douchebag. At the clinic, I had to go through a bunch of pointless hoops designed to make you feel bad, like looking at the ultrasound. The nurse was really nice but told me, “I just have to show it to you and tell you everything I’m looking at and offer you a picture.” When the doctor came in, she said,I have to read you some statements about risks associated with abortion. I need you to know that these were not written by medical professionals.” It was nonsense: If you do this you might never be able to have kids, it’s got all these chances of ruining everything, and you could die. Really fearmongering stuff. The doctor told me pregnancy and childbirth are actually many times more dangerous than this procedure and that I was only six weeks pregnant, so it would only take 20 minutes.

I had to wait another week because they didn’t have any appointments. That was the worst week. It was consuming all my thoughts. I went in and they asked one more time, “Are you feeling better about this decision, or do you have any second thoughts?” I’ve never met such nice doctors. The nurse I had talked to for the consultation appointment and the ultrasound came in and sat with me and held my hand.

I work for the state, so my insurance wouldn’t cover it because the employer contribution is tax dollars. I paid a little over $750 out of pocket. I had to dip into my savings to do it, and the guy gave me some money, but I didn’t think of going to abortion funds because I just felt like that money was for people who really, really needed it. I didn’t want to take away from people who are in desperate situations. I told my boss and she was like, Whatever you need to do, just do it, don’t worry about it. I took off a half-day for the consultation and the whole day for the procedure and three days after that.

Breanna, 30, Phoenix

I was at the airport on December 24, flying from Arizona to Texas to spend Christmas with my ultraconservative boyfriend and his Trump-loving family. I was texting with my friend, and I told her that my nipples hurt and I gained ten pounds. She said, “Take a test, this is not a good time to be in Texas.” While we were there, my boyfriend’s niece had a fever, so we went to Walgreens. I saw a test and I put it in my backpack because I knew I couldn’t bring it out in front of my boyfriend’s family. I waited until we got back to his house, and I went to the bathroom and did it. Right away it came back positive. I had been on birth control and was in denial. I think I took about eight tests total.

Once I got back to Arizona, I started Googling “home remedies to terminate.” I started taking dangerous amounts of vitamin C thinking that would take care of it. I started eating nothing but shellfish, lunch meat, pasteurized cheeses. I started drinking massive quantities of alcohol. On top of that, I would just do excessive amounts of exercise. I was praying for blood every second of the day. Unfortunately, the female body is resilient.

That same week after Christmas, I tried to call Planned Parenthood but I couldn’t get hold of anybody, so I went in person. I said I need to get a consultation — in Arizona, you have to schedule a consultation to even set up an appointment because there’s a 24-hour waiting period — but they looked at me like I was a fucking idiot and said you have to schedule an appointment online. So I go online and the system keeps freezing. Every appointment they had available was four to six weeks out. I’m like, Am I supposed to just walk around, growing? I’m already eight weeks along. 

I ended up going to a private clinic. I got there at 4:30 in the morning after calling out of work. It’s January in Arizona, and you have to sit outside in a line that wraps around the building, and I just sat there with blankets. Everybody’s shivering and bundled up, this quiet fucking line of sad women. I sat in that line from 4:30 a.m. to about 12 p.m., and they took one person after me and sent everybody else home. All those women sat there for hours just to get turned away.

I did the consultation, and they tried to make me wait another two weeks for the appointment. I begged them. I was in tears. So they let me come back sooner — they said, “We have a cancellation two days from now at 2 p.m.” I called in sick again and had to beg for coverage. The doctor was the most amazing lady I’ve ever met. She came in and said,Listen, I’ve had three abortions — it’s fine, people do this every day.” At nine weeks, I chose the pill instead of the surgical abortion because they make you get a ride if you get anesthesia and I wouldn’t have had a ride. It cost $800; I had to put it on credit cards. I didn’t look into abortion funds. I have a college education, and I have a car, and my car’s paid off — there’s other people that are more deserving of this than me that need it more than I do.

Olivia, 20, Holland, Michigan

I actually had an abortion two years ago, so I went to the same clinic. It’s an independent clinic with good reviews, and I liked it the last time I went. I called the clinic probably two days after I found out I was pregnant so I could wrap my mind around it. It was a pretty quick decision. I called on May 2 and was scheduled for a medication abortion on May 11; they were not offering surgical abortions. Before the appointment, you go online and have to read over information about abortion, prenatal care, and parenting. The tone is pretty neutral, but they give you more information about adoption and parenting than about abortion, even though you’re looking at this for abortion. This is the standard in Michigan.

At the clinic, there are a lot of protesters outside, and that is one of the hardest, hardest parts. They were basically begging me not to kill my baby. My boyfriend came with me and one of the protesters told him, “Be a man and go in there and love that woman.” And he said to me, “I think that’s what I’m doing.” The protesters also have microphones, so while you’re in the building, it kind of sounds like they’re also in the building with you.

I got an ultrasound just to confirm that I was pregnant. I was about six weeks along. They give you a mini counseling session, and then you meet with a doctor and take the pill and take the other pills home with you. It felt exactly like a period. I could put my daughter to bed — she’s 3 — while I was going through the worst of it with the help of my boyfriend. For the rest of the night and the next day, I just lay in bed. The only thing that my insurance covered was the prescription afterward for the pain medication, so I paid $675 out of pocket.

Grace, 32, Manhattan

I’d never gotten pregnant before — for all I knew, the plumbing didn’t even work. In February, I was feeling really sick and bloated. Once my period hit like three, four weeks late, I went and got a urine test. By then, I’m vomiting every day with incredible gut pain. I knew I wanted a surgical abortion because from what I know about the pill, you bleed for a couple weeks, and I didn’t want to feel shitty for longer — I had family coming to town. I reached out to my primary-care physician, but she was so busy that I decided to call Planned Parenthood. They said they didn’t have an appointment near me for a couple weeks. Maybe it was just a particularly busy time or I was talking to the wrong person, but at this point, I was panicking. I went on Zocdoc and found a gynecologist who could see me the same day, just down the street from my office. They told me they could squeeze me in at the end of the week. I went in and the staff was wonderful — nice, funny people who remembered my name after the first visit.

Twenty-four hours after the procedure, I felt absolutely fine. But I think there’s a preconceived notion that you can get anything you want immediately in New York City. But we need more than one Planned Parenthood per borough, and people need to know that there’s more than just Planned Parenthood. I have good health insurance, I’m a knowledgeable millennial who knows how to use apps and the internet very well, and it took me the better part of two days before I had any sort of appointment on the books. And then let’s talk about the bill that my insurance claims they’re not covering — $2,000 for the surgery, $1,750 for the anesthetist, and $7,000 for “facility charges,” which are apparently sometimes charged when a hospital operates a clinic.

Anne, 43, San Antonio

My husband and I were not necessarily trying to get pregnant, and I’m 43, so we were surprised in early January when I didn’t get my period. So surprised, but very excited — it was an unexpected blessing in our minds. Around ten weeks we did the genetic testing. I never expected to get the news that the baby had a 95 percentile risk of having trisomy 18, which is a fatal chromosomal disorder. Babies who have this, either you end up having a miscarriage or stillbirth, or if they are born, most of them die within the first month.

My ob-gyn, when she gave me the genetic testing news, she said she was so sorry and that if I had any other questions, let her know. But she did not counsel me about abortion. I saw two separate doctors who specialize in high-risk pregnancies, both women who said it wasn’t looking good, but neither of those doctors spoke to me about termination. With the second, I told her I know this is really hard to talk about because we’re in Texas, but I would choose to terminate if it comes back as trisomy 18. (It’s hard to talk about in Texas because of S.B. 8, the law that says anyone “helping” someone get an abortion can be sued. So it creates an insidious climate of silence. I wasn’t sure my doctors could even discuss it with me.) And she said, only you can make that decision. That was it. There was no counseling, there was no If you need to leave the state, this is where I would recommend going.

I had a friend who had gone through something similar. She gave me the name of the clinic that had been recommended to her, but I was actually too early for them — I was only 14 weeks. I also went on Reddit, and someone there recommended a clinic in New Mexico.

It was shockingly easy to make the appointment. I was able to make one for the following week; there was even a next-day appointment available but I couldn’t make child-care arrangements in time.

I took three days off and flew to Albuquerque. At the abortion clinic, it was a relief. Two staffers counseled me, and the doctor sat down with me to talk. The staff asked me if I wanted to have a memory box made or anything, like with footprints from my baby. The level of support at the abortion clinic was so much higher and more personal and thoughtful than the support I got from any of the doctors in San Antonio. The procedure cost $600, but with the flight, rental car, airport parking, and loss of wages, it was probably $3,800. I haven’t even tried to get reimbursed by insurance. I assumed they wouldn’t cover it.

Madi, 25, Seattle

In February, I was a couple of days late on my period, which is not abnormal for me. I took a pregnancy test from the dollar store. I’m not sure if it was a user error or what, but that one came back negative. Then I ended up being a week late, and one morning went to the gym, and I was so tired it was like I couldn’t work out. On the way home, I picked up a pregnancy test. That one came out positive.

Right when Planned Parenthood opened at 8 a.m., I called them. They said the earliest that they could get me in was in three weeks. I Googled “abortion clinics” and Cedar River Clinics popped up. They asked me if I wanted to do the medication or a surgical abortion. They said with surgical you have more chance of success expelling the tissue, but it’s more expensive. It was going to be over $1,000 or $600 for the pill, so I went for the pill.

When I went to the clinic, I was five weeks along, and they had a hard time finding my embryo with the ultrasound. They were very hesitant about giving me the medication abortion — they were like, “We can’t find the embryo, so there’s a good chance that you have an ectopic pregnancy. If we give you the medication, it won’t work if it’s ectopic; we’d like to wait two weeks.” I was like, “I would really like to come back in a week and see if we can find anything.”

I actually really enjoyed the experience of being pregnant, but the fact that I knew I wasn’t going to be keeping it was very hard to deal with. I didn’t want to harm the embryo, even though I knew that it wasn’t going to last — I didn’t want to drink; I didn’t want to have coffee. It felt like I was keeping a secret.

When I went back into the clinic, they confirmed it on the ultrasound. I was six weeks by then. I met with a social worker — they did some screening and gave me some supportive resources and asked me how sure I was on a scale from one to three. The very last step was just meeting with the doctor, and that was maybe 30 seconds of her asking if I had any questions and then taking the first pill in the office. Since they go in steps where you’re kind of rushing to wait, it ended up being about a three- or four-hour day.

I assumed that you take the pill and either your uterus absorbs it or you just kind of pass it. I was like, Oh, the next day I’ll go hiking with a friend, I’ll sleep it off — but that was not the case. I experienced the contractions and the cramps, passing clots for like four or five days, and bleeding for two-ish weeks. For the first couple days, I was so emotional. I had a heating pad. I just lay in bed and watched movies. I couldn’t eat. Being a nurse, I only work two to three nights a week, and I’m very flexible on my schedule, so I took the whole next week off. I told my manager that I was pregnant and that I was having some complications.

Samantha, 38, South Dakota

I have an 18-year-old child, so when I found out I was pregnant again, that was a shock. It was an “oops,” and me and my partner talked about whether or not to have an abortion, but I wasn’t sure.

One night about four days later, I had heavy bleeding and excruciating pain. I went to the doctor and they confirmed that I was five weeks along and probably having a miscarriage. My doctor wanted to give me the abortion pill to help evacuate the sac, but couldn’t. When you’re pregnant, you have HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, often called the pregnancy hormone), and my doctor said my HCG levels would have to be dropping, so it was clearly a miscarriage, for them to be able to administer the abortion pill. Otherwise it would count as an elective abortion, which they couldn’t do. Elective abortions can only be done at Planned Parenthood or a few hospitals in South Dakota — but the PP only provides abortion care once a month, so I couldn’t get an appointment for another three weeks.

Those three weeks were basically nothing but the worst cramps and nausea you could have. I could not get out of bed. I never miss work, but I had to take a one-week unpaid leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. I thought about leaving the state to go to a clinic where I could get the abortion sooner. But I would have to tell my story again, which I wasn’t ready to tell to a whole new group of people not knowing how they would accept me — and I couldn’t imagine driving out of state. I just wanted to be in bed. So I waited for my appointment in South Dakota.

When I met with the doctor, she wanted to give me the pill that day because I had been in such severe pain for so long. But my HCG levels still hadn’t dropped for some reason, so I had to wait — South Dakota has a 72-hour waiting period for abortions. I went in for an appointment again and my boyfriend said protesters were yelling things while he was sitting outside — “You’re killing a living creature,” and it’s just like, what’s inside me doesn’t even have a heartbeat — and I’m glad I didn’t get to hear that because I would’ve broken down. I found out I was pregnant on October 27, and December 2 was the day I took the final test to learn I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I had to suffer for more than a month because of this law that didn’t take into consideration that people would use this pill for other options.

These stories have been condensed and edited for clarity.

10 Women on Getting an Abortion in the End Days of Roe