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What It's Like to Get an Abortion in Georgia

While Georgia's 6-week ban has been blocked as legal challenges proceed against it, the reality is that it's already difficult to get an abortion in the state.

by Kimberly Lawson
Nov 25 2019, 11:00am

Collage by Hunter French | Images via Shutterstock

Georgia made national headlines in May when Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a bill that would ban abortion after 6 weeks and define fetuses as people. While the law has been blocked as legal challenges proceed against it, the reality is that it's already difficult to get an abortion in the state.

What Georgia state law says about abortion:

People seeking abortions in Georgia face a number of restrictions. Abortions are prohibited after 20 weeks unless the pregnant person's life is in danger, their physical health will be severely compromised, or there's a lethal fetal anomaly.

According to the Women’s Right to Know Act, which passed in 2005, patients seeking an abortion must be:

  • counseled before the procedure about potential medical risks associated with having an abortion and carrying the pregnancy to term
  • told the probable gestational age of the fetus
  • informed about the possibility of receiving financial assistance from the state for prenatal care and childbirth
  • reminded that the “father” is liable for child support
  • informed where they can obtain an ultrasound free of charge
  • given state-sponsored materials that “describe the unborn child, list agencies that offer alternatives to abortion, and contain information on fetal pain.”

After receiving this mandated counseling, patients have to wait at least 24 hours before their abortion appointment. In cases where an ultrasound is performed, providers have to offer patients the opportunity to see the image and listen to the fetal heartbeat. Georgia only allows publicly funded insurance like Medicaid and plans purchased from the state to cover abortion care in cases of rape, incest, or if the patient’s life is at risk. For minors, a parent or guardian must be given 24 hours notice prior to the procedure.

Additionally, crisis pregnancy centers receive public funding in order to “encourage childbirth instead of voluntary termination of pregnancy.”

What it’s like seeking an abortion in Georgia

This is one woman’s story.

One morning in 2013, Susana, whose last name has been withheld to protect her privacy, woke up feeling nauseated. Although she was on the birth control pill, she immediately suspected she was pregnant. She bought an at-home pregnancy test from a nearby dollar store. It was positive.

Susana, who lived in Georgia at the time, calculated that it had been six or seven weeks since her last period, so she knew she had the option of having a medication abortion, which is FDA-approved for the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. She was 19 and not ready to have kids, and especially not with her boyfriend at the time—the relationship was tumultuous, she said.

In an interview with VICE, Susana, who’s now 25, shared more about her experience of getting an abortion in Georgia—and how she initially ended up at an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What did you do after you found out you were pregnant?

Susana: I went to what I thought was a health clinic, but it turned out to be one of those fake pregnancy clinics. The name was so benign. It was really weird. I didn’t do a blood test, I just did the urine test at the clinic, which confirmed the pregnancy.

While the test was processing, I was taken to a prayer room. It was all under the assumption that I would have the baby. [A woman] was like, ‘Let’s pray for the life of the baby and that you’ll be fine.’ I told her I’m an atheist and I don’t pray, and she’s like, ‘OK, that’s fine, I’ll pray anyway.’ At the end of it, she gave me a pair of yellow baby booties. I thought, why did you have to make this so real all of a sudden for me? They called several times [after that initial visit], asking me about how my pregnancy was, and telling me that they have a lot of resources, diapers and all of that stuff. It was just uncomfortable and mostly awkward.

When did you decide to have an abortion?

Within a few days after learning I was pregnant. It feels like a blur now. I was Googling everything—abortion clinics, how the process goes, everything. When I called the clinic, they told me to call back within 24 hours to actually make the appointment. I was confused. [When I called back] it didn’t take long to schedule the appointment...within a week and a half. I was fortunate enough that it was in the same city I lived in.

What was the appointment like?

The clinic was located in an office complex. There were protesters at the entrance—they were standing there with signs. My boyfriend and I drove in circles all around the building so that they wouldn’t see us drive straight to the clinic. I didn’t know if they could tell, but I didn’t want them to identify our car.

When we were in the waiting room, there were a lot of women by themselves. We all knew why we were there because these were the only services offered. It was quiet. I don’t think there was even a TV on in the waiting room. The nurses or techs weren’t particularly comforting—it felt like maybe the DMV.

What else do you remember about the appointment?

It felt very procedural. I had the ultrasound that they make you have—I just assumed it was so they could see how far along I was.

After the ultrasound, I was put in a room with like four or five chairs with desks attached to them like in middle or high school. That’s when the nurse asked me a few questions: Am I being forced to do this? Am I volunteering to do this? It wasn’t like, hey, are you fine. It was more like a formality, kind of like running through a questionnaire.

Then I was given the medication and painkillers and sent home. I was told to take the next day off if possible. They told me to buy pads, and take the painkillers.

How much did it cost?

I think it was about $400. My boyfriend gave me $100, and the rest I already had saved.

Is there anything else you want to share about your experience?

I had a medication abortion and I was fortunate enough that it was pretty straight-forward. It wasn’t scary. I took the pill in the comfort of my own home, which I really appreciated. I didn’t have to travel out of town, I wasn’t underage, I had enough money saved up, my parents were supportive—all of that really made the decision a lot more clear. All those things that are supposed to deter people from having abortions—they do, but not because people don't want to have abortions. It's because there are too many burdens.

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What It’s Like to Get an Abortion