In-Clinic Abortion

Surgical (In-Clinic) abortion has been legal in the United States since

January 22, 1973.


What is an In-Clinic Abortion?

Women’s Health Center does In-Clinic abortions for women who are between 6-15.6 weeks pregnant.  It is done by a licensed physician using vacuum aspiration under local anesthetic.  This is done by slightly dilating the cervix (the opening to the uterus) so that a flexible straw-like instrument, called a cannula, can be inserted into the uterus. The contents of the uterus are then removed using a suction technique.  This is the simplest and safest method and can usually be done in about 5 minutes.

How far along can you be?

Between 6 weeks, from the first day of your last period, up to 15.6 weeks, depending on the physician.

How long will it take?

A surgical abortion takes place with one visit to the clinic; the surgical abortion itself usually takes less than 5-10 minutes.  As with any other outpatient surgery, there are procedures and tests that must be done first, therefore, plan to spend approximately 5-6 hours at the clinic.

  1. You will have lab work done to determine your blood RH factor, a urine pregnancy test to confirm your pregnancy, and an ultrasound to determine the number of weeks pregnant you are.  Patients whose pregnancies are beyond the prescribed limits of a first trimester abortion will be referred to other facilities.
  2. You will meet with a nurse to discuss your medical history.
  3. You will meet with a Patient Educator privately to discuss your decision and address any concerns you may have.
  4. The physician will perform a pelvic exam prior to your procedure to determine the position of your uterus.  The physician will numb your cervix with lidocaine (local anesthetic) and the contents of your uterus will be removed through a vacuum aspiration technique.
  5. After your procedure, you will spend at least 30 minutes in our recovery room, where you will be monitored by a nurse, and given after care instructions.  A follow-up visit at the WHC or your own doctor is recommended 2 weeks after your abortion.

How Safe are In-Clinic Abortions?

Abortion has become much safer since it was legalized in the U.S. in 1973.  It is now one of the safest and most common medical procedures done in an outpatient setting.  In our clinic, experienced health care providers with special training in abortion medicine provide high-quality care, including post-abortion follow-up.  Abortions have been performed and studied for 25+ years; there is less than 1% rate of complications. Your fertility (ability to have children) is unaffected, with the exception of very rare complications.

What can you expect during the abortion?  Will it hurt?

What most women describe feeling during their abortion is a sensation similar to menstrual cramps.  The amount of discomfort varies from woman to woman, ranging from no cramping at all to strong cramping.  While the cramping may be similar to what you experience during your period, it lasts for only 15 to 20 minutes and is usually relieved by moving around and using the heating pads provided in our recovery room.  Pain relievers may also be provided.

How much will you bleed?

Light to heavy bleeding from 1 to 7 days, but may continue for 2-3 weeks.

Can you be “put to sleep” under general anesthesia?

WHC, like the vast majority of U.S. abortion providers, does not offer general anesthesia, due to the greater medical risk it carries.  Using a local anesthetic allows the woman to remain alert during the procedure, and greatly reduces the amount of recovery time after surgery.

Can the abortion fail?

Over 99% of surgical abortions are successful.  If the abortion fails, it can be repeated at WHC for no additional cost.

What else should you know?

  • Women are seen by appointment only.  You can usually get an appointment within a week of calling.
  • All appointments and patient information are kept strictly confidential.
  • Payment is due in full at time of service.  Please see Service Fees & Payments.
  • If you are under the age of 18, please see information about the MN Parental Notification Law.
  • When you arrive for your appointment, you may encounter protesters.  You have the legal right to choose to terminate your pregnancy.  The protesters do not have the right to harass you, physically touch or restrain you, or stand to block you or your vehicle.  Please call 911 if they are doing any of these things, and also report these behaviors to WHC staff.  Try to ignore them as best you can.  WHC escorts wearing clearly marked vests will accompany you as soon as you enter the building.  To minimize contact, try to have your driver drop you in the loading zone directly in front of the Building for Women.  See diagram and maps in Location.

 What to bring with you on the day of your appointment.

  • A first morning urine sample in a clean jar or other covered container.
  • Two regular-sized maxi pads.
  • A photo ID with your date of birth on it, and the same for any support person who comes with you.
  • Your insurance information, cash, or a Visa or MasterCard. (WHC does not accept personal checks).
  • Any forms you receive in the mail from WHC.
  • Light snacks and something to do during periods of waiting.
  • One support person, who will also need to bring photo ID with a date of birth.  Please do not bring children.  You will need to arrange for daycare if you have young children.
  • Please inform us if you are on any medications, have allergies to any medications or have a history of any medical health problems, including depression or other mental illness.
  • If you are under 18, bring all materials necessary to satisfy MN Statute 144.34.  Information regarding this law will be given to you when you make your appointment and also located on this website at MN Parental Notification Law.
  • Please dress comfortably and bring underwear.


As your hormone levels adjust to normal, you might experience bleeding or spotting for two to six weeks.  You will bleed according to your own healing rate.  You might have no bleeding, light flow for a few hours or for a few days, flow like a normal period for a few hours or days, light spotting for 2-6 weeks, flow that stops and starts possibly several times between your next period, passing clots (50 cent piece size is normal), or a dark colored discharge.  If you have been pregnant before or normally have heavy periods, you might have heavier bleeding.

If you do bleed, your flow may increase when you get up in the morning, sit on the toilet, or do anything strenuous.  This is normal.  Drinking alcohol, lifting heavy objects, using marijuana or taking “period” medication like Midol, may also increase your bleeding.  Lying down with your feet up should help.

If you are not used to wearing sanitary pads, it may feel like you’re bleeding more than normal.  If you are concerned please feel free to call WHC 218-727-3352.