Abortion Procedures
December 11, 2003 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Looking for info on the process of abortion (ed: for a script)... [more inside]

I'm wondering if anyone can help me with this... I'm writing a script in which a character gets an abortion but the character is not central to the plot so I do not need a lot of scenes about it. Since this is for a story, and not real life, I think it's best if I could ask a series of questions and if you're familiar with the topic you could fill me in on details. (If you'd like to email me and keep your answer private, by all means please do.)

1. I need a scene of the character talking to the doctor prior to the abortion. Besides the obvious ("Are you sure, have you really though this out?"), what might the doctor ask/say? Would the patient have to meet with just the abortion doctor or ... ? (I'm thinking maybe a doctor might recommend a shrink or something like that.)

2. Is there any medication that the patient would have to take pre or post abortion? What it is and what does it do? If there is pre-medication and the woman changes her mind after taking it, what, if anything, can go wrong?

3. How many visits does the entire procedure take? (Meaning, is there one (or more) follow-up visits to ensure things went okay--if so, how soon after the procedure do they happen?)

4. How does the procedure affect sex (is there a waiting period afterward before the person can have sex)? Does a properly carried out abortion affect the short-term ability of a woman getting pregnant again?

5. Any good links you could provide that might be able to provide more info?

6. Do abortion laws vary from state to state (by that I mean in the states in which it is legal--my character needs to have it legally)?

Sorry if some of these questions are naïve or stupid, I just do not want to have the same scenes I've seen in so many movies (usually patient talking to a nurse and waiting with a loved one at a clinic). Thanks!
posted by dobbs to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
1) They'll tell you the risks (chance of an incomplete abortion and having to redo the procedure, possibility of infection, etc., etc..) They also ask why you're having the abortion, make sure you're aware of the alternatives, and counsel you on post-procedure birth control options.

2) Prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infection, and if you agreed during counselling to start taking the pill, they give you a month packet and instructions on taking them.

3) Depends on state law. The procedure itself doesn't take very long (four or five hours from sign in to recovery,) but some states require multiple visits before a patient is actually allowed to have an abortion (counselling, etc.,).

4) Abortion generally has no effect on a woman's fertility (which is why birth control pills are prescribed immediately afterwards.) The same sexual restrictions post-childbirth apply to post-abortion- there will be pain, swelling, bleeding, and usually a post-procedure check-up to make sure there is no damage and infection. Figure six weeks before medically permitted to have sex; when the patient would be *interested* in and feeling well enough to have sex again is subjective.

5) Planned Parenthood's archive of abortion articles.

6. Yes, laws vary in every single state. State Abortion Laws Survey. NARAL'S State-by-State Review.
posted by headspace at 7:20 AM on December 12, 2003

headspace, thanks very much!
posted by dobbs at 8:56 AM on December 12, 2003

Headspace gave some good info, but I thought of a few other things to add.

1. They would also be asked the standard questions prior to any surgery, in particular when they ate last and if they have any drug allergies. This is often done by a nurse or nurse practitioner instead of a physician.

2. The patient will generally be given a sedative prior to the procedure; typically Valium by mouth or Versed (similar to Valium) intravenously. If a woman changes her mind after taking the premed, the procedure should be stopped. In addition to the antibiotics headspace mentioned, they will also be given pain medicine postop. Percocet, Lorcet, and Tylenol with Codeine are all common choices. If they are not given birth control pills for any reason they may be given some condoms for birth control.

3. Although it varies as described by headspace, typically there is a preop visit to confirm the stage of pregnancy and schedule the actual abortion, followed in a day or two (may be mandated by state law) by the abortion itself, then followed about a week later by a followup visit to look for signs of infection or other complications and possibly to confirm that the woman is no longer pregnant.

4. Six weeks is a typical time that women are instructed to avoid sex ("pelvic rest"), but I have known women that were active again a week later.

This might be more than you need, but if you want more info, feel free to email me with specific questions. Hope this helps.
posted by TedW at 9:39 AM on December 12, 2003

Thanks, TedW. Much appreciated. I will probably mail you for more info. :)
posted by dobbs at 12:55 PM on December 12, 2003

I don't know how helpful it would be, but the film "If These Walls Could Talk" might have some insight for you.

Good luck with the script.
posted by deborah at 1:36 PM on December 12, 2003

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