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We are fortunate to be able to offer our patients access to either a medication abortion procedure or an in-clinic surgical abortion procedure across the three counties we serve. Because we are able to perform medication abortion with trained clinicians (Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, and Certified Nurse-Midwives) at every one of our health centers, our patients have greater choice, convenience, and access.

In 2002, California passed the Reproductive Privacy Act that permitted any authorized health care provider to provide medical abortion. We train our clinicians to provide this service, and we continue to offer these services during the pandemic.

Medication abortion: greater numbers than ever before.
Nationally, medication abortion has increased, while overall abortion rates have declined. In 2017, medication abortion accounted for 39% of all abortions — an increase of 25% since 2014 (Guttmacher Institute). Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest has mirrored this trend and then some; between 2013 – 2018, we saw a 575% increase in medication abortion procedures (from 1,354 to 7,773).

Patients who are up to 10 weeks pregnant have the option of obtaining a medication abortion appointment at any of our health centers, with a medication abortion-trained clinician. Most patients seeking a medical abortion are under 8 weeks pregnant. Patients may also choose to have a surgical abortion appointment in one of our specialty centers.

How do medication and surgical abortions differ?

Medication Abortion
Medication abortion is completed in three steps. First, the health care provider gives the patient a dose of mifepristone at the health center. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally, and mifepristone blocks the body’s own progesterone.

Within two days, the patient takes a second medication — misoprostol — also in the form of a pill, from the privacy of their home or chosen location. Lastly, a health care provider checks that the abortion is complete with an ultrasound or blood test at the health center. 

Surgical Abortion
If a person wants to have an abortion and they are over 10 weeks pregnant, they will need to opt for a surgical abortion rather than medication abortion. A surgical abortion takes place at one of our specialty health centers. 

There are a couple different kinds of surgical abortion procedures. Suction abortion (also called vacuum aspiration) is the most common type of surgical abortion. It uses gentle suction to empty the uterus. Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) is another type of surgical abortion; it uses suction and medical tools to empty the uterus. A person can get a D&E later in a pregnancy than vacuum aspiration.  

Why might a patient choose one type over another?
Patients who are under 10 weeks pregnant may prefer to be seen at a health center near them rather than driving further to a specialty center — and since every one of our health centers performs medication abortion, patients will most likely have an option near them. Some patients also prefer the control of passing their pregnancy in the comfort of their own home with a support person, rather than to have the procedure at the health center (where they would also need a driver to accompany them). 

However, medication abortion patients need to be willing to have the two appointments required for this procedure (an initial appointment where the patient is counseled and medication is dispensed; and the follow-up appointment post-procedure), whereas a surgical abortion is complete in one visit.Both procedures are incredibly safe and effective, but there is a slightly increased failure risk with a medication abortion procedure. 

The important thing: Our patients have access to both.
We offer medication abortion — with medication abortion-trained clinicians — at every single one of our health centers. Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest is seeing more patients than ever for medication abortion procedures. This is a good thing, because it means that our patients are finding this procedure convenient for them. Our specialty health centers also provide expert, excellent care for our patients who prefer or need a surgical abortion.

At Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, we give our patients the information they require to make an informed decision that best fits their needs. 


Tags: Abortion, medication abortion

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