How to Make an Abortion Emergency Plan Right Now
So you can get the care you deserve as quickly as possible.
By Korin Miller
By now, you’re probably well aware that Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion in the U.S. on a federal level, has been overturned. With that, many people across the country now live in states where abortion is illegal or severely restricted—and access to crucial reproductive health care is only expected to become more challenging.
People are scared, and it’s understandable. There are a lot of changes happening right now and the rights that you had a month ago may no longer exist in your state. That’s why experts say it’s essential to anticipate what could happen if you need an abortion—and what actions you would need to consider taking to get the care you deserve.
“Abortion should be legal and easily accessible,” Paulina Briggs, laboratory supervisor and patient educator at WE Health Clinic, a clinic focused on reproductive health services including abortion, in Duluth, Minnesota, tells SELF. “But that’s just not the reality of our country right now. Abortion is a time-sensitive medical procedure, and having a plan can help someone get the care they need as quickly as possible.”
Danika Severino Wynn, CNM, vice president of abortion access at Planned Parenthood, agrees. “It’s increasingly important to consider ahead of time what you would do should you face an unplanned pregnancy,” she tells SELF. “When you need abortion care, every day counts.”
It may feel like you’re living in a dystopian society right now, but there are certain things in your control that can help you plan for the future. With that in mind, we consulted ob-gyns, abortion care providers, and members of several legal groups fighting for reproductive rights, on how to create an abortion emergency plan so you can be as prepared as possible.
Be aware of potential privacy risks.
Experts are still figuring out the extent that digital surveillance may be used in the coming months to track people seeking abortions, track people helping others get abortions, or to further criminalize pregnancy loss, but there are some general things to consider before you do any major planning.
At the time of publication, “being in possession of abortion information is not a crime, and traveling to get abortion care is not a crime,” Rebecca, executive director at INeedAnA.com, a site dedicated to helping people figure out how to get an abortion, tells SELF. (Editor’s note: Rebecca’s last name has been withheld for potential privacy and safety concerns.) However, she adds that certain lawmakers and anti-abortion groups want to change that in some states.
That’s why Rebecca says it’s “good best practice” to be “thoughtful” about your data privacy on both your computer and on your phone. That can include using a VPN (a virtual private network, which is a service that protects your privacy online) or downloading a private and secure browser, like Tor, Brave, or an alternative search engine to Google, called DuckDuckGo. These browsers will not store your search history or let advertisers track your movement around the internet, she says.
Downloading new browsers and paying for a VPN may not be accessible to everyone, though, and in those cases, it’s still a good idea to delete your search history and use incognito mode when you’re online (even though this doesn’t fully protect your privacy). “Clearing your history and cookies does meaningfully reduce what police can access with a warrant,” Rebecca says.
You may also want to consider turning off your phone’s location services in certain situations, such as if you go to a reproductive health clinic to talk with a doctor. And, it’s probably best to use only private, vetted health apps for period tracking, like Euki, Rebecca says.
“If you’re talking with people about getting an abortion, use an encrypted app like Signal and encrypted email like Protonmail,” she adds. “If I wanted to save my abortion plan somewhere, I’d email it to my Protonmail from my Protonmail to store it in that inbox.”
Set up a Google alert to help you stay on top of changes.
Staying on top of the legal landscape of abortion care can be difficult given all the changes that are happening right now, says Wynn. Still, “it’s worth keeping tabs on your individual state’s abortion laws,” she says. If feeling up to date and in the know is a source of empowerment for you, consider setting up a Google alert with phrases like “abortion law [insert your state name here]” or “abortion [state name]” to send you the latest news.
There is one caveat, though: This really depends on what you feel like you can mentally handle. “There’s an overwhelming amount of information that’s out there,” Heather Shumaker, director of state abortion access at the National Women’s Law Center, tells SELF.
If you feel like you’re having trouble processing the news cycle lately, this may not be the best route for you. Instead, Shumaker recommends periodically consulting the National Women’s Law Center or Guttmacher Institute, where you can get up-to-date information without having to see every soul-sucking headline. The Guttmacher Institute has a constantly updated interactive abortion map that tracks abortion laws across the U.S. that can help clue you in. Another good resource is Planned Parenthood, which also has a state-by-state guide. Plan to look at these every few months, at minimum, to see if there have been any major changes you should know about.
Have a few inexpensive pregnancy tests handy.
“It can be a good idea to make sure you have a few pregnancy tests handy in case you need them,” Wynn says. “The earlier you know you’re pregnant, the sooner you can weigh your options.” While pregnancy tests can be pricey and do expire over time, you can typically buy them at a hefty discount from your local dollar store, making stockpiling them a more practical option.
This has become especially important now that certain states have bans on abortion starting as early as six weeks—when most people don’t even know they’re pregnant yet. As soon as you suspect you could be pregnant, it’s best to take a test. Most at-home tests will be able to detect pregnancy about 10 days after conception, but waiting until your first missed period will reduce the chances of a false negative, according to Mount Sinai. Wynn just recommends checking the expiration date for the tests, which is usually stamped on the side of the box, and following directions on how to store your tests properly.
Figure out the nearest abortion clinic in your area.
Shumaker says it’s “really important” to know this before you’re in a situation where time is of the essence. This is true if you live in a state where abortion is banned, but also for people in states where abortion is generally accessible, as wait times for appointments may be much longer due to an influx of people from neighboring states. If you are seeking an abortion, “every moment counts,” she says, and trying to locate a clinic is one less thing you’d have to worry about if you do some research now to plan ahead. Doing this research in advance can also help you avoid organizations called crisis pregnancy centers that portray themselves as abortion providers but “exist only to deter people from getting abortions,” Shumaker says. Some telltale red flags include not stating clearly whether they perform abortions, making abortion sound really dangerous, or running ads asking if you’re pregnant, scared, and need help.
According to Planned Parenthood, most crisis pregnancy centers aren’t legitimate medical clinics, so they don’t need to follow HIPAA laws and keep your information private. They could also potentially give your information to other anti-abortion organizations, which can be risky if you live in a state where abortion is banned or heavily restricted. Crisis pregnancy centers are “some of the first things that come up in search results” when you look for abortion providers, Shumaker says. There are a few sites that can help you identify these centers, including exposefakeclinics.com, crisispregnancycentermap.com, and The Fake Clinic Database, which offer tips and resources for sussing out fake clinics.
See if your health insurance covers abortion.
If you have health insurance, “consider calling your provider to fully understand your options,” Wynn says. If you have the capacity to do a deeper dive into your coverage, you can look into language around pregnancy termination if it’s available online. Calling may be your best bet, though. “There is a lot of uncertainty at this moment about employer-sponsored insurance plans and a lot of gray areas,” Shumaker says. “What does it mean if your plan covers abortion but you live in a state where abortion is banned? We don’t know yet.”
Of course, you may not have health insurance coverage and you’re not alone in that. “Many folks in the U.S. do not have access to health insurance or a primary care provider,” Wynn says. If that’s the case and you know you can’t afford abortion care if you need it, you’ll want to make note of the services offered by the National Network of Abortion Funds and Planned Parenthood. They can help connect you with abortion funds in your state, as well as other types of financial assistance programs at non-profits and other organizations. Abortion costs can vary (and some clinics offer a sliding scale payment system) but can be as much as $750 out of pocket, per Planned Parenthood. With help, you may still have to pay something out of pocket, but it’s often much cheaper.
You may also want to have a conversation with your primary care doctor or ob-gyn at your next annual appointment. They can help walk you through your options, and potentially plan out the steps you’d need to take to access abortion care in the future. At the very least, this conversation might tip you off that your doctor is less-than-supportive of your reproductive rights—so you can find a new doctor who is.
Consider how you would handle other aspects of abortion care.
Having an abortion requires financial planning beyond the actual procedure. There is a doctor’s appointment to schedule (whether it’s in-person or via telehealth), but you may also need to think about gas money or overnight accommodations if you’re traveling, scheduling childcare if you’re a parent, and possibly taking time off from work for recovery. All of that costs money, in some form or another.
Not everyone can afford to take off work or travel if needed, but there are resources out there that may help. Briggs recommends noting the contact information for the National Network of Abortion Funds for this reason, too. This organization directs you to local and national abortion funds that can help pay for your abortion, along with the potential costs of travel, lodging, and childcare, if needed.
“Where you live now decides how far you must travel, how much you must pay, whether your insurance company will cover your care, and whether you face any risk of legal ramifications among other considerations,” Briggs says. “It’s also important to consider the support you have around you when forming an abortion plan.” For example, do you have someone who is willing to drive you to and from your nearest clinic? A safe place to stay while you have a medication abortion? “There are so many unknowns right now on how these abortion bans will be enforced and the scary truth is, there are real risks that people will be criminalized or targeted for having an abortion,” says Briggs.
Revisit your birth control method.
Yes, it’s surreal that you may not be able to access abortion care if you ever need it, but this is the reality we’re living in now. That’s why it’s smart to do what you can now to lower your risk of needing to seek out an abortion later, Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, tells SELF. “The most important thing these days—more than ever—is to use absolutely effective contraception,” she says. “No more rhythm methods, using the withdrawal method, forgetting to use a condom, or forgetting birth control pills.”
One thing you can do right now is to pick up a couple of doses of emergency contraception to have on hand; it’s crucial that you don’t hoard it, though. If you’re looking to switch your birth control method, Dr. Minkin suggests looking into a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) like an IUD or the birth control implant—both of which offer effective protection for three to ten years, depending on which type you choose.