Whether you have spent weeks debating your options or knew abortion was right for you from the moment you got a positive pregnancy test, you may be surprised to learn that the procedure itself is usually the shortest part of the process. How long an abortion takes depends on whether your state has implemented mandatory waiting periods, the type of procedure you choose, and on how long the waiting list is as your local abortion clinic.
Waiting Periods for Abortion: How Long Do I Have to Wait?
Twenty-six states require mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion. This means that, after you call the clinic to book an appointment, you must wait a set period of time–usually 24 hours–before having the procedure. You may also have to have state-mandated counseling, and in some states, this counseling includes medically incorrect information.
If you are a minor, things get slightly more complicated. While it is legal for minors in every state to have abortions, most states require that the abortion clinic notify a parent. For many minors, this significantly delays the procedure because of anxiety and fear. If a parent will not give permission or a child does not want to tell their parent, they can seek a judicial bypass. This is when a judge authorizes an abortion in a parent’s absence. The judicial bypass process can take days, weeks, and sometimes longer.
Clinic Wait Times
Abortion clinics serve large communities, particularly in areas where there are few clinics or heavy abortion restrictions. This means that a clinic might see dozens of patients in a single day, especially during busy weekends and before holidays.
At some clinics, you may wait all day, even if you have a specific appointment time. So call ahead and ask about wait times so you can plan accordingly. Pack a book or something else to do to pass the time, since many clinics restrict the use of phones in waiting areas.
How Long Does Abortion Take?
The actual length of the abortion procedure depends on the type of abortion you choose. For all abortions, you will need a brief appointment before the procedure, as well as an ultrasound to verify the pregnancy. Each takes just a few minutes.
A medication abortion usually requires an initial appointment with a doctor. Then, you take the pill at home or at the clinic. Cramping begins shortly thereafter, as the pill induces a miscarriage. For most people, the miscarriage is complete within a day–and often much sooner. Bleeding may last longer, though. If cramping is intense or bleeding does not begin, it could be a sign of an abortion complication, so see a doctor.
Surgical abortions are very short–usually only about 15 minutes, though slightly longer if you opt for general anesthesia that puts you completely to sleep.
For second trimester abortions, you may need a two-day procedure. On the first day, a doctor or midwife inserts dilators into the cervix to help it slowly open overnight. This process usually takes about 30 minutes. The following day, you’ll return to the clinic for the surgical procedure. Surgery takes 15 to 30 minutes, and sometimes a little longer depending on how far you are into the pregnancy. Most people can leave the clinic within an hour of the procedure.
Choosing the right clinic can help you get an abortion as quickly and safely as possible. Click here to find a safe, supportive clinic in your community.