***Edit: This post has been edited to reflect neutral pronouns and nouns
There is so much going on right now in terms of abortion access. The assault on reproductive healthcare shocks me everyday. Pe
ople need to make the decision to have an abortion on their own and for most this decision is not an easy one to make. One thing that I think is important is to learn how to support your friend or partner during this decision process and especially if decides to have an abortion.
I can speak from experience that not having support from friends made the decision and the whole abortion procedure so much more emotionally difficult. That experience and the experiences of other people have led me to become an abortion doula. An abortion doula is a person that is somewhat of a caretaker for a person going through an abortion. Here are some things to consider doing or not doing when your friend tells you that they are pregnant.
1. Let them make their decision. Don’t think they are going to go through with the pregnancy or assume they are going to have an abortion. They might say they are going to go through with the pregnancy and then the next day change their mind. Let them come to this decision on their own. When one needs to make a big decision life it is always nice to have a sounding board. Just be there for them while they reach their decision in their own time.
2. Don’t tell anyone else about any information they have shared with you, or assume that they have shared this information with anyone else. This is something I found in my experience to be really surprising. I have people give me a deadline to tell my partner, or they will inform them. The truth is that ultimately this is their body and their decision. It should be their decision to tell whomever they want. This is their story and their experience, telling their story without their consent is taking their power away from them.
3. Don’t analyze their birth control method. Unintended pregnancies happen. Do not ever ask if they were using birth control. Now is not the time. Usually after an abortion procedure the clinic will offer birth control options and that is something that your friend or partner can decide after the procedure. If they want to talk to you about their birth control options afterwards be positive and non judgmental. Don’t joke around about using birth control of any sorts- it is just insensitive.
4. Abortions are very expensive and the price goes up as the gestational age increases. Most private insurance companies do not offer to pay for abortion services, but some do. Support your friend in finding out if their insurance covers the procedure. It is also helpful to do some research on your own to see if there are any programs that help pay for the procedure. Call up your local planned parenthood for financial assistance referrals. In some states if you have medical assistance or state funded insurance abortion services are covered.
5. Inform yourself of the different types of procedures. Depending on the type of procedure you might be able to help more if your friend elects to have a medical abortion versus a surgical abortion.
The medical abortion is also known as the abortion pill. The medical abortion is available in most states up to 9 weeks. It is important to note every state is different and because anti-choice people in government many states are limiting the time a person can use the abortion pill. Your friend will go to the abortion clinic and take a pill there. At that time the pregnancy has officially ended. 24-48 hours after the first medication they will need to take pills that they place in their mouth between their gums and allow them to dissolve. During this time they might vomit or have diarrhea. They might experience intense cramping. Tampons are not recommended during this process and several days after the pregnancy has passed. Most clinics offer a prescription pain medication to help with any discomfort. A very helpful friend told me to take the pills at night and the pain medication will help you sleep through the night. It is important to understand that if you do take the pain pills at night along with the second set of medications that your friend/partner must monitor the amount of blood that leaks into the pad. A throw up bag, crackers, water, and a heating pad is helpful to have on hand. It might also be good advice to have pads on hand in the bathroom and next close by in the room you decide to spend most of your time waiting for the pregnancy to pass. If your friend is laying in bed, recommend that they place a towel on the bed just in case you have any leaks in your pad.
Comfort foods and liquids are very important during the “recovery” time. Offer to bring whatever they want. Some people can move around and will want to go out and others will be tired or feel too uncomfortable to go out. This is a great time to bring movies or books and magazines.
The surgical abortion is for the most part done at the clinic in 1 or 2 days depending on the gestational age. You can offer to go with your friend at the clinic if they desire. Remember that even though the procedure is typically 10 minutes the entire appointment is usually 4 hours long, (this is typically the same for the medical abortion). If your friend chooses to have mild sedation then they will need someone to drive them home.
6. People have abortions for many different reasons and have different experiences during the abortion process. After the procedure be sensitive to their emotions. Again remember that you are a sounding board. Listen to what they have to say and how they are feeling. Don’t try to change how they feel, just let your friend feel whatever emotions they have and validate their emotions.
It might be helpful call: 1-866-4-EXHALE
They are an amazing organization that helps people with emotional support before and after the abortion. They could give you great tips on how to emotionally support your friend in the right way. I know that it really meant a lot to me that my friends came over and hung out with me and brought me gifts; I did not want to really hang out with people but it was nice that they respected that but still showed they cared.
Here are some great websites and videos for more information