Abortion

This page describes the medical process involved with an abortion so that a woman can make fully-informed decisions. Local clinics that provide abortion services are also listed.

What is a surgical abortion?

Legal abortion, carried out by trained medical practitioners, is one of the most common and safest surgical procedures. About 1.5 million American women choose to have induced abortions each year. Fewer than 1% of all abortion patients experience a major complication associated with the procedure.

Abortion refers to the extraction of the contents of the uterus (uterine lining and implanted fertilized egg), which ends the pregnancy. In Rhode Island, abortion procedures are performed in medical clinics rather than in a physician's office. Each clinic is inspected and regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Health in the same manner as hospitals and individual medical providers. In other states, abortion procedures may be performed by an individual physician in his/her office.

In early pregnancy, the procedure used most commonly in the US is vacuum aspiration (suction). The procedure itself takes about 10 minutes and is usually done with a local anesthetic, although sedation or general anesthetic may be requested. The cervix (opening to the uterus) has to be opened (dilated) enough for a small tube to fit in. The plastic tube is attached to a machine that creates a mild suction. With this suction, the doctor removes the endometrial lining of the uterus, the embryo, and the placenta. Vacuum aspiration abortions may be done from 5 to 16 weeks after the last menstrual period. For pregnancies beyond that point, which represent about 1/10 of the total abortions performed, other methods are used. Abortion is not performed before 5 weeks because the embryo is too small to ensure that all fetal material has been removed. Lab examination of the removed uterine contents helps to prevent incomplete abortions.

After any surgical abortion procedure, the patient remains at the clinic for several hours so that her vaginal bleeding and health status can be monitored. An injection of antibiotics is often given after the abortion to guard against infection. Also routine is a discussion about contraceptive methods and giving the patient contraceptive supplies before she leaves the clinic. We encourage involvement of a friend, partner or family member throughout the abortion process, from the diagnosis of pregnancy through follow up after the procedure.

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What is a medical abortion?

A medical abortion is an alternative to surgical abortion that was approved in the US by the FDA in September 2000. After a pregnancy is confirmed, a medical abortion is performed by administering prescription medications (either an injection or pills) that will induce an expulsion of the uterine lining and the implanted fertilized egg. These medications (a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol or methotrexate and misoprostol) are collectively called RU-486. Mifepristone is more commonly used than methotrexate because it is more effective and more predictable. These medications are not the same thing as emergency contraception, also known as "the morning after pills." As an abortion method, RU-486 can be used up to 7 weeks after the last menstrual period.

A medical abortion can take anywhere from 1 day to 3-4 weeks after taking the medication, and requires a minimum of 2 visits to the clinic or medical office. These return visits are very important since there is no other way to be sure that the abortion has been completed. With mifepristone, the majority of women will abort within 4 hours of taking misoprostol and 95% will abort within 1 week. With methotrexate, 80% to 85% of women will abort within 2 weeks. Some will take longer and may need more doses of misoprostol. In the small percentage of cases (3-4% of mifepristone cases and 4-8% of methotrexate cases) where the medications do not result in a full abortion, women need to have a surgical abortion to complete the process.

Is abortion legal in Rhode Island?

Yes. Abortion is legal, but there are restrictions for women under 18. In Rhode Island, women under 18 are required to have the consent of one parent or legal guardian to have an abortion. If this is not possible, the state provides an alternative called "judicial bypass" which means you go to court to have a judge determine that you are mature enough to make this decision without a parent’s consent. Local abortion clinics can link you to counselors trained to help young women with this process and to accompany them to court.

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Does my health insurance cover the abortion procedure?

Call the clinic ahead of time to discuss insurance and payment. If you have the University-sponsored health insurance plan, you do not have to get a referral from Health Services in order to have the insurance cover your abortion services. Voluntary termination is covered the same way as any other medical condition. Specific questions about the University-sponsored plan should be directed to the Office of Insurance and Risk at 401.863-1703.

If you have another health insurance plan, you should check to determine if it will pay for part or all of your abortion services and to determine how to maximize your coverage. You might also want to ask what the insurance company's procedures are regarding notification of the plan subscriber (the person who pays for the insurance plan, whether it's you or your parents) about services covered. If you don't know the name of your health insurance company, call Health Services at 401.863-3953 to find out.

Where do I go to have an abortion?

This list is intended solely to provide information on the various agencies in and around Rhode Island that offer abortion services. It is not intended as a recommendation of specific agencies.

Planned Parenthood of Southern New England 401.421-9620
111 Point Street, Providence

  • Appointments
    Abortion procedures are provided Thursday and Friday. Call for an appointment.
    Procedures are done 5 to 18.6 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Fees
    Surgical abortion:
    Up to 12 weeks: $338 for local anesthesia, $643 for general anesthesia
    12 to 13.6 weeks: $614 local anesthesia, $719 general anesthesia
    14 to 15.6 weeks: $714 local anesthesia, $819 general anesthesia
    16-18.6 weeks: $814 local anesthesia, $919 general anesthesia
    Medical abortion: up to 9 weeks, $600                                           
  • Payment Method
    Money orders, MasterCard and VISA are accepted. Personal checks are not accepted. If you have the University-sponsored insurance plan, you may call the Office of Insurance and Risk at 401.863-1703 to discuss your coverage anonymously. If you have other insurance coverage, call the insurance company ahead of time to determine the amount of coverage and procedures for payment.
  • Additional Information
    A partner, friend, or family member may accompany the patient through counseling, but they are not allowed in the room during the procedure. Group counseling is also offered for partners, friends, and family members. Anti-abortion protesters may be outside the facility. Escorts are available through Planned Parenthood to accompany patients into the clinic.

Women's Medical Center 401.467-9111
1725 Broad Street, Cranston

  • Appointments
    Abortion procedures are done on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Thursday evenings. Morning appointments are made to have the counseling, examination, lab work, and procedure all done on the same day. Procedures are done from the time that a positive pregnancy test is taken to 21.6 weeks.
  • Fees
    Surgical abortion:
    Up to 10 weeks: $530 for a "relaxed state," $550 for local anesthesia, $620 for general anesthesia
    For pricing after 10 weeks, visit for a price quote or call and ask for Lisa.
    Medical abortion: up to 10 weeks, $650
  • Payment Method
    Money orders, cash, MasterCard, Discover, and VISA are accepted. Personal checks are not accepted. If you have the University-sponsored insurance plan, you may call the Office of Insurance and Risk at 401.863-1703 to discuss your coverage anonymously. If you have other insurance coverage, call the insurance company ahead of time to determine the amount of coverage and procedures for payment.
  • Additional Information
    Partners, friends, or family members are not allowed in the procedure room. Antiabortion protesters may be outside the facility. Escorts are available through Women's Medical Center to accompany patients into the clinic.

Women's Primary Care Center, Women and Infants Hospital, 401.274-1122 x2797
2 Dudley Street, 5th Floor, Providence

  • Appointments
    Abortion procedures are provided Friday afternoons or by appointment. Call for an appointment. Procedures are done from 5 weeks up to 19 weeks, 6 days gestation.
  • Fees
    Surgical abortion: Depends on whether abortion done in outpatient clinic (< 9 weeks only) or operating room. Call for more information.
    Medical abortion: $550
  • Payment Method
    Most insurance plans are accepted and on-site individual financial counseling is provided. Cash, money orders, MasterCard and VISA are accepted. Personal checks are not accepted. If you have the University-sponsored insurance plan, you may call the Office of Insurance and Risk at 401.863-1703 to discuss your coverage anonymously. If you have other insurance coverage, call your insurance company ahead of time to determine the amount of coverage and procedures for payment.
  • Additional Information
    Pregnancy options counseling available for women seeking termination of pregnancy.  In the Early Options Clinic Friday afternoons, staff provide medication abortion ("the abortion pill") and surgical abortion under local anesthesia up to 9 weeks gestation.  They can also make arrangements for surgical abortion up to 19 weeks 6 days gestation in the operating room with full anesthesia if desired.  A full range of contraceptive options is available including IUDs and implants.

Four Women, Inc. 508-222-7555
152 Emory Street, Attleboro Massachusetts

  • Appointments
    Abortion procedures are scheduled Thursday and Saturday and every other Tuesday. Procedures are done up to 18.6 weeks.
  • Fees
    Surgical abortion:
    Up to 11.6 weeks: $500 for local anesthesia, $600 local anestheisa + asleep for brief period
    12 to 13.6 weeks: $725 for local anesthesia or local anesthesia + asleep for brief period
    14 to 14.6 weeks: $750
    15 to 15.6 weeks: $800
    16 to 16.6 weeks: $875
    17 to 17.6 weeks: $1200
    18 to 18.6 weeks: $1550
    19 to 19.6 weeks: $2050
    20 to 20.6 weeks: $2550
    Medical abortion: up to 9 weeks, $650
  • Payment Method
    Money orders, cash, Mastercard and VISA are accepted. Personal checks are not accepted. If you have the University-sponsored insurance plan, you may call the Office of Insurance and Risk at 401.863-1703 to discuss your coverage anonymously. If you have other insurance coverage, call the insurance company ahead of time to determine the amount of coverage and procedures for payment.
  • Additional Information
    Partners, friends, and family members are not allowed in the procedure room. Antiabortion protesters may be outside facility. Call ahead if you need an escort to accompany you into the clinic.

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What happens after I have an abortion?

Physical complications are rare. The most common complications are heavy blood flow and infection. Danger signs include excessive bleeding, fever, nausea, severe cramps or foul-smelling vaginal discharge. The clinic will give you instructions about what to do if any complications occur.

Recovery time varies after an abortion. An antibiotic to prevent infection and a medication to help the uterus contract to its normal size are sometimes prescribed. Avoid strenuous activities for a few days and then resume normal activities when you feel well. There is a bloody discharge like a menstrual period for several days after an abortion and normal periods should start within 4 to 6 weeks.

To prevent infection, avoid douching, baths, and sexual intercourse for 2 to 3 weeks after an abortion.

A post-abortion checkup is important and can be done by the provider who performed the abortion or by a medical provider at Health Services. This checkup is a time to make sure your body is healing properly and to discuss contraceptive options. A woman can become pregnant in the time after an abortion and before her next menstrual period, so it's important to use a contraceptive method or abstain from sex.

Links you can use

Planned Parenthood
In addition to information about abortion, pregnancy, and contraception, you can link to reproductive health advocacy sites and you can enter your local zip code to find the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.

National Abortion Federation
This site has information about all pregnancy options, the legal issues around abortion, advocacy links, and an electronic database to assist you in finding a provider in your area who is a member of the National Abortion Federation and upholds their standards for quality care.

Backline 888.493-0092  
A Talk Line that offers a safe and confidential space for women and their loved ones to talk openly about pregnancy, abortion, adoption and parenting. Call toll free from anywhere in the U.S.

Abortion Conversation Project
This site helps prepare teens for talking to parents about their pregnancy. It offers conversational tips, pregnancy resources, and real stories from both parents and teens.

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Disclaimer: BWell Health Promiotion is part of Health Services at Brown University. Health Promotion maintains this site as a resource for Brown students. This site is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. No site can replace real conversation. Health Promotion offers no endorsement of and assumes no liability for the currency, accuracy, or availability of the information on the sites we link to or the care provided by the resources listed. Health Services staff are available to treat and give medical advice to Brown University students only. If you are not a Brown student, but are in need of medical assistance please call your own health care provider or in case of an emergency, dial 911. Please contact us if you have comments, questions or suggestions.