At Austin Women’s Health Center, we understand it can be frustrating to wait several hours on the day of your abortion. We prepare you to expect to spend 2-3 hours on the day of your ultrasound appointment, and 3-5 hours on the day of your abortion appointment.
As a result of the passage of HB2 in 2013, which shut down our sister clinic in Killeen, the state of Texas lost more than half of its abortion providers. And even though HB2 was overturned in 2016, most clinics that shut down haven’t reopened. There’s a limited amount of abortion providers in Austin, and there’s none in the surrounding areas like San Angelo, Copperas Cove, Killeen, Manor, Kyle, and more. So, as a result, people often have to travel from out of town to have an abortion — increasing the number of people who seek abortion care on any given day and increasing wait times at your abortion appointments.
It’s also important for us to provide compassionate, patient-centered care, which means that some interactions may take longer than others, and this can also increase the time some spend waiting. This also means that if you need time to talk through the emotions surrounding your decision, we’re here for you. But we know that this can be an uncomfortable amount of time to spend waiting, especially for those who visit us with children. So we’ve compiled a list of ways that can help you pass the time!
1) Bring a Supportive Person To Your Abortion Appointment
While we can only allow patients into private clinic areas (like the lab for vitals, medical rooms, and counseling session), you’re welcome to bring one support person to wait with you at your abortion appointments. Some people prefer to go alone, while others find comfort in having someone they know with them. This could be a partner, a friend, a parent, a sibling, or a faith leader. It can be easier to pass the time when you’re able to distract yourself by talking to someone you know. And when we feel anxious, waiting can make situations like this even worse. Having someone you know be there with you can help ease anxiety, and pass the time more quickly too!
2) Stock your phone or tablet with entertainment
While you might catch Bob Ross painting “happy little mistakes” on our waiting area TV, having your own media to choose from might be more appealing to you. Download a movie or TV show in advance, in case your cell phone service isn’t strong, or listen to a new podcast or album you’ve been meaning to check out! Don’t forget to bring headphones, because it’s a good idea to utilize them to respect the space of others waiting.
There’s also a lot of positive messaging online surrounding abortion, which can be helpful to read if you’re visiting with us on a day that protestors have gathered near the road. Shout Your Abortion (SYA) uplifts the voices of people who’ve had abortions, and you can read the stories of others online. We also have the SYA book you can ask to read.
We Testify is another organization that centers on the experiences of those who’ve had abortions, especially those who experience unique barriers when accessing abortion, like people of color and trans/non-binary people. 2+ Abortions is dedicated to busting the stigma around having multiple abortions.
You can read stories from others on their website, or visit both of these organizations on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook while you wait for your abortion appointments.
3) Pack a Bag of Your Essentials
If you have a smartphone, remember to charge it the night before your appointment. Bringing a portable battery or a charger is a good idea, too.
Some people pack a light blanket and neck pillow to make their time waiting a little more comfortable. Unlike a surgical abortion, if you’re having a medical abortion, you’re able to eat and drink beforehand, so those choosing the abortion pill can bring snacks and drinks to eat inside the waiting area.
Think about some other things that bring you comfort that you could pack. Do you draw? Bring a sketchpad and pencils! Do you read? Bring that book you’ve been dying to read. Have you been needing to catch up on a project for work? Bring your laptop or iPad! Do you crochet or knit? You’re welcome to do any of these things while you wait.
If you’re bringing children, bring a bag for them too! Our staff loves children — some of us are parents ourselves! So we don’t want you to feel ashamed or stressed if you bring your kids into our clinic.
Some parents let their kids pack their own bags full of things that they think will keep them occupied (as well as kid-approved snacks!), but be mindful of electronic toys that make noises others might not feel comfortable hearing. We have a limited supply of children’s toys, and we encourage you to bring what you think is best for them. Coloring, puzzles, legos, handheld games/devices, playing “I Spy” or tic-tac-toe, and imaginative play with dolls or action figures are all things some of our patients have occupied their children with while waiting for their abortion appointment.
4) Get Some Fresh Air
Our clinic is private and small, which means that for some people, things can feel a little cramped when the waiting area is full. If you haven’t been given anxiety medication, and need to step outside on our porch for some fresh air or to take a phone call, feel free! We also have space outside with a picnic table. We just ask that you let the front desk know before you do, so we don’t think you’ve left if we call you back.
If there are protestors outside, our porch extends to the side of the building which may give you more privacy than the bench area. While protestors cannot enter our parking lot, waiting areas, or private green space, they can still attempt to yell things from the road. If you need to go to your car but are uncomfortable with the protestors, we are happy to provide you with a patient escort to walk with you outside.
5) Write a Letter to Your Representatives
Lawmakers are still attempting to pass extreme restrictions that would make abortion even more inaccessible. Your voice and experience deserves to be heard, and what better way to channel frustrations surrounding restrictions than by going directly to those who help enact them?
Use this search tool here to find your local reps, and click on their name to view their Capitol address. You can also send an email or call their office directly.
Here’s a sample template you can use when writing or emailing your letter:
Subject: Include the topic (extreme abortion restrictions in Texas and their impact, for example)
My name is [Your Name] and I am writing as a constituent who lives in your district.
[State why you oppose abortion restrictions, especially those you feel personally impacted by, and you can include any personal experience you feel comfortable sharing. Tell them why this is important to you, and how it affects you (or others) when needing healthcare. Let them know you want them to vote against these extreme restrictions in the future, and you can even ask for a response.]
We know your time is valuable, and we’re so glad you chose Austin Women’s Health Center for your abortion care. We want to help make your experience comfortable from the very beginning in the ways that we can, and we hope these tips will make your waiting experience easier when you visit with us for your abortion appointments.
Have you visited with us before and have your own tips to share? Comment below and let us know what worked for you!