There are many abortion providers in your area, and choosing the right one may require some research to find the one that would fulfill your needs the most. Being prepared and informed will help reduce the stress and anxiety you are likely already feeling. So how do you choose a clinic that will offer you the best medical care, make you feel comfortable and treat you with respect and dignity?
AS OF MARCH 2019 ALEXANDRIA WOMEN’S HEALTH CLINIC WILL BE RELOCATING TO
5999 STEVENSON AVE. SUITE 403 ALEXANDRIA, VA 22304.
The new location is across the street from the previous location of 101 S Whiting St.
The facility will be located on the 4th floor in suite 403
Your first contact with the clinic will be by phone. During the phone call pay attention to how they treat you and how they make you feel:
- Are you being treated with kindness and respect?
If the person you are speaking with is indifferent, cold and robotic this might be an indication of how that clinic views its patients. A proper clinic will make it a priority to treat their patients with understanding, kindness and sensitivity from the first phone call to the last visit.
- Do you feel comfortable with the person?
If you feel uncomfortable for any reason or you feel judged or uncared for, listen to your instincts and try calling another clinic.
- Are they knowledgeable? Do they answer all your questions clearly and without reservation?
A quality clinic will be concerned about informing you to the best of their ability. They would make sure that the person who answers the phone is well informed and able to answer all your questions.
- Do they give you more information than you ask?
A good clinic wants you to be well informed so you can make the best possible decision regarding your care. If you receive more than enough information that might be a good indication of the quality of service you might receive. If a clinic puts time and effort to make sure their staff who answers the phone is well informed then it is more likely they put that same effort into every part of their servie and facility.
- Are you speaking with a staff member of the clinic or a call center?
Clinics with multiple locations most often operate with a call center to make appointments for all of their clinics. This may have sounded like a great money-saving idea in a boardroom somewhere, but the experience for the patient is very poor. Often the person making the the patient’s appointment is unlikely to know very little about what the patient can expect at that specific clinic since they are not at that location.
- What does the clinic do to protect my privacy, including the “walk of shame”?
Like any medical clinic, facilities that provide abortion services are required to protect your privacy. But in addition, there is a stigma attached to abortion that can add additional stress to an already stressful experience. Many clinics have only one room through which everyone enters and exits, requiring the patient to leave through a full waiting room of people, effectively announcing “I just had an abortion”. Ideally, a clinic will be set up so that the patient leaves through a separate waiting area, reducing the number of people with whom she comes in contact.
- How is Twilight/IM (intramuscular) administered?
Intramuscular means to inject medication into a muscle, in other words a shot. Medication given this way works much more quickly than when given in pill form. Some clinics will advertise that they use IM medication, but actually give their patients pills. This lowers their costs and increases their profits. But because pills act more slowly, the patient will be in the clinic longer or the procedure will start before the medications have had time to take effect. The only way to avoid clinics like these is to be informed and ask the right questions.
- How is the IV Sedation administered?
Some clinics will tell you that you will be asleep but will only give you an injection or pill that may or may not put you completely asleep. To be “asleep” requires IV Sedation which must be administered by a Doctor of Anesthesiology or a Nurse Anesthetist. Being “asleep” does not necessarily mean you will receive IV Sedation. Some clinics consider IM/Twilight to mean “asleep”. Therefore, ask the clinic, “Do you have an Anesthesiologist or Nurse Anesthetist on staff?”
Calling clinics is a great way to get information. Below are some of the many questions you should ask:
What are the Fees?
- Does the fee quoted cover all the costs such as follow-ups?
Some clinics charge extra for follow-ups. Their initial abortion fee might be low because there is an extra charge for the follow-ups whether you need one or many. Follow-ups are important to the overall health of the patient. It is the step that transitions between the abortion service being completed and the start of the patient’s normal gynecological function, her monthly period.
- What types of payment do you accept?
You may be surprised to find what forms of payments are accepted or not accepted by some clinics.
- Will my insurance be accepted? Will the clinic call my insurance provider to determine my copays and other fees?
In most cases, you are unfamiliar about abortion coverage and fees when using your insurance. You may call your insurance company to ask about fees regarding abortion and in most cases you will be given the wrong information about coverage. Using improper language and or codes with insurance companies can create extra charges and more frustration for the patient when the bill is processed. A good clinic will want to make the process as easy for yout as possible, and that includes dealing with the insurance company on your behalf. The clinic should offer to call your insurance company and then call you to inform you of your coverage.
- Are there charges for any of the lab tests?
Occasionally the doctor might feel the need to have blood tests done. Some clinics may charge extra for these tests. Laboratory tests usually include a pregnancy test, a blood sample to check your hematocrit (if your blood is lacking iron) and your RH factor.
- If my blood type is RH negative, do they offer a Rhogam injection? What is the cost?
The RhoGAM® Brand antibodies circulate in the Rh-negative mother’s bloodstream and prevent her immune system from making the sensitized antibodies that would threaten a baby with Rh-positive blood. The clinic should be able to test your blood for RH factor in-house and be able to offer you the injection at the time of your appointment.
- Is there an extra fee for a sonogram?
Some clinics charge extra for sonograms. Their initial abortion fee might be low because there is an extra charge for the sonogram. Add up all the extra fees to determine true cost.
Some other questions to ask:
- What types of procedures are there?
- How long into my pregnancy can I still have an abortion?
- What are my pain management options?
- How long will the procedure take?
- How long will I be in the facility?
- How long has the doctor been performing abortions?
- Are there any extra charges?
- Is an ultrasound done before the abortion to confirm the stage of pregnancy?
- What happens after the procedure? Is there a “Recovery Room”?
- For non-surgical abortion, is the method used an FDA approved method? (Mifeprex with Misoprostol)
- Is there a 24-hour phone number for emergencies?
- Is follow up care required or provided?
A clinic staff member should always take the time to explain all of your options and answer all of your questions. Your health should be as important to them as it is to you.
Abortion procedures are very short, only a few minutes. The entire process, however will likely take a few hours. A good clinic will take a medical history and perform an ultrasound, lab work, and a physical exam, all before preparing you for the procedure.
Afterwards, you will need time to recover from the anesthesia, ideally in a comfortable and relaxing setting. During this time, clinic staff will begin getting you ready for discharge. This should include both oral and written instructions regarding what precautions to take, an emergency number in case you have a problem, and the option to make an appointment for a follow-up visit.
As with any decision, it is important to gather as much information as possible beforehand. A good way to do this is to first check websites to compare services and fees, keeping in mind that a nice website doesn’t necessarily translate to good customer service. Then choose a few favorites and call them. Ask them some basic questions about their available services and address any questions that you might have, like a fee that seems too high or too low, or any information that seems lacking. Anyone can have a bad day, but if the person who answers the phone is impatient, annoyed, or clueless, that’s not a good sign. Once you’ve narrowed it down even more, a short visit is a great way to get a feel for a clinic.