A few years ago, I found out I was pregnant on December 23. I was still putting the final touches on our tree and singing along to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Now, all I wanted for Christmas was to not be pregnant.
Even though I was confident in my decision to have an abortion, navigating the timing was difficult emotionally and logistically. The first available appointment my local clinic had was well into the new year—three weeks later, to be exact. And like many people, even though I had insurance, it wouldn’t cover an abortion.
With the holidays approaching, ‘tis the season for limited availability at local abortion clinics. If you or someone you love needs an abortion during the holidays, these tips may help:
1) If your city has more than one abortion clinic, shop around!
It can be our first instinct to go with the first clinic we discover. But not only can prices vary based on provider—the availability can, too. The clinic where I eventually had my abortion wasn’t the first place I called. In fact, other clinics in my area would have been an even longer wait in addition to being more expensive. In my experience, independent clinics are often more affordable with better availability.
2) Consider traveling to an abortion clinic in a nearby city
It’s not uncommon for people to travel to other areas to have an abortion sooner, especially if you live in a state that has restrictive abortion laws. I live in Texas, where in 2013 we began to lose more than half of our providers after the passage of HB 2, which imposed medically unnecessary requirements—also known as targeted regulations of abortion providers, or TRAP laws—on clinics. Some states, like Kentucky or Missouri, only have one abortion clinic thanks to these kinds of policies. And while no one should have to travel to get the health care they need, if you’re not too far from a provider in another city, this may be another way to lessen the time you spend waiting. There might even be a practical support organization to assist with your travel expenses. Fund Texas Choice, for instance, provides travel support to Texans. Kentucky Health Justice Network provides transportation assistance and funding to Kentuckians needing abortion care. ARC-Southeast supports people in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Click here to view other practical support organizations by state.
3) Call the clinic multiple times a day for cancellations
Between people who don’t show up to appointments and those who may need more time to think about their decision, cancellations do happen. I called my abortion clinic about this every day for a week in an attempt to move my appointment up sooner. I apologized to the staff in advance for how many times I’d be calling, but they were completely understanding. And in the end, it paid off. I was able to push my appointment up ten days—which is a significant number when you don’t want to be pregnant.
4) Contact an abortion fund to help you pay for the cost of the procedure
Did you know certain organizations provide financial assistance to pregnant people needing an abortion? The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity helped me with $150, and it was exactly the amount I needed to bridge the gap between what I had and didn’t have. Even though I was able to push my appointment up sooner, I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the financial assistance I received. Click here to view abortion funds by state. You can also ask clinics to screen you for financial assistance.
5) Ask for money instead of gifts for the holidays
If you’re strapped for funds and find out you need an abortion right before the holidays, this may be an opportunity to let your loved ones know that you’d prefer to receive cash in place of gifts this year. You don’t have to share the reasoning behind it, and it’s perfectly acceptable to simply say you have bills to pay.
6) If you’re under 18 and can’t involve your parents, contact an organization that can help you with a judicial bypass
If you live in a state that requires parental involvement, you have the right to petition for a judicial bypass—which is permission from a judge to have an abortion. In Texas, teens can contact Jane’s Due Process 24/7 when needing an abortion without parental consent. The group provides a free attorney as well as emotional and logistical support throughout the process. Carolina Abortion Fund supports teens seeking a judicial bypass in North Carolina and South Carolina. The Louisiana Judicial Bypass Project supports teens in Louisiana who cannot involve their parents. Some Planned Parenthoods, like those in Colorado, may also provide legal assistance to teens. Oftentimes, these organizations can help you apply for financial assistance for the abortion. To learn more about what a judicial bypass is, click here.
7) Read up on what to expect during an abortion
It can be a challenge to find unbiased, factual information when learning about abortion. But many clinics are partners with the National Abortion Federation, so you can read information you can trust on their website here. You can also explore the website of the clinic you’re going to and familiarize yourself with their process. The staff will make sure you feel prepared once you’re there, but knowing what to expect before you go can help you work through any concerns you might have ahead of time. It can also help you determine what questions you’ll want to ask once you get in contact with someone to schedule an appointment.
8) Visit storytelling websites that highlight the real experiences of people needing an abortion
There’s an entire community dedicated to busting stigma and normalizing abortion. We Testify—a leadership program of the National Network of Abortion Funds—seeks to shift the narrative surrounding abortion. As an abortion storyteller with the latest cohort, “We Testify Texas,” I’m excited to share my experience with my community to do what I can to make others feel trusted in their decision. Shout Your Abortion also released a book last year that features a compilation of abortion stories from people all over the United States. They accept submissions online from people who want to share their stories, and you can read them here.
9) Avoid pregnancy resource centers
Also known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), these places won’t provide you with an abortion. But seeing an advertisement for a free ultrasound along with “abortion referrals” can be really tempting—especially when abortion clinics have long wait times and high costs. Getting the ultrasound out of the way over the holidays seems like a good idea, but if you’re in a state with a mandatory ultrasound law, you’ll still need to have one performed by the same doctor who performs your abortion. And CPCs are known to lie to people who are interested in abortion, so err on the side of caution and only visit a legitimate abortion clinic!
10) Use your support network
If there’s someone in your life who you’re comfortable talking to, consider letting them be there for you during this time. No one should have to experience this without support if they don’t want to. For me, seeing pregnancy announcements during Christmas made me feel guilty, even though I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong by having an abortion. But like many, I grew up in a society that associates a pregnancy—especially during the holidays—with something to celebrate. I felt comfortable confiding in a friend and the experience has strengthened our friendship. She even shared that she had an abortion, which reminded me that I’m not alone. If you don’t have a supportive person you can trust with this, All-Options provides an emotional support hotline before and after an abortion. There’s also a network of abortion doulas that may be available in your area, like the Doula Project in New York City, the Baltimore Doula Project, or Cascades Abortion Support in Portland, Oregon. To find more abortion doula organization, click here.
Even though it was hard, when I look back on my experience during the holiday season, I remember feeling empowered. I advocated for myself by calling clinics and abortion funds, and comparing the costs and availability gave me a sense of control in a situation where I felt powerless. And while it was discouraging at times, I don’t associate the holidays with any grief around the decision. Instead, it was the first time I learned what it really meant to be pro-choice. Abortion may be legal, but without access that means nothing—and this isn’t only true for where we need an abortion, but also when. I hope these tips help you, or help someone you love, access abortion where and when you need it.