Why Getting an Abortion by 6 Weeks Is Nearly Impossible

  • Texas’s new law bans abortions after 6 weeks, but most people don’t know they’re pregnant by then. 
  • Doctors often won’t see patients until a suspected 8 weeks of pregnancy just to confirm it. 
  • It also takes time to decide to terminate a pregnancy, find a provider, and secure the funds. 

Megan tracked her menstrual cycles diligently and invested in expensive pregnancy tests to use as soon as she missed a period. But the tests came back negative until she was about five weeks along, and even then the positive tests were hard to believe.

“When I finally saw that pink line, it was so faint that I was taking three tests a day to make sure it wasn’t a fluke,” said Megan, an HR professional in California who asked to use her first name only because she didn’t have clearance from her company to speak to the media. 

She promptly called her OB-GYN, but was denied an appointment before she was eight or nine weeks along — the point at which her pregnancy was officially confirmed through ultrasound. The only care she got before then was a 30-minute phone call with a nurse at about seven weeks pregnant to discuss how she was feeling.

“I absolutely hated waiting to see my OB,” Megan said. “As a first-time mom, I had so many questions, and even though I had the positive tests, it still didn’t feel real.” Megan delivered her baby in January. 

Texas’s new abortion law, set to go into effect September 1, forbids abortions after six weeks, but terminating a pregnancy before six weeks is nearly impossible, Dr. Bhavik Kumar, an abortion provider in Houston, told Insider. To get an abortion, you first have to know you’re pregnant — something Megan’s story demonstrates is difficult to know early, even if you’re actively trying to conceive.

Getting an appointment with an OB, let alone an abortion provider, within six weeks makes the deadline even more impractical.  

Half of pregnancies are unplanned, even those trying rarely know before six weeks 

Six weeks of pregnancy is about two weeks after you would have expected to have a period.

“I think the biggest point to make here is that in the US, 50% of pregnancies are unplanned,” Dr. Stephanie Ros, an OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the University of South Florida, told Insider. 

“At six weeks, most women would not have any clue they were even pregnant if they weren’t carefully tracking menstrual cycles, and that doesn’t even take into account the millions of women with irregular cycles who might go six weeks or longer between periods as a normal part of their life,” she added. 

At six weeks, Romero said, the embryo is a quarter-inch long. “It’s barely noticeable on ultrasound, we often have to use transvaginal ultrasound to be able to see it at all,” she said.

That, along with the risk of miscarriage early in pregnancy, helps explain why some providers prefer to wait until the embryo is a fetus, or eight weeks gestation, to schedule the first prenatal appointment. 

Making the decision, finding a provider, and securing the funds also take time 

Let’s say a person suspects they’re pregnant a few days after they miss a period. 

That gives them less than two weeks to decide if they want to keep or terminate the pregnancy under the new Texas law, which will go into effect in September if it’s not blocked in court. 

“That may mean consulting no one, that may mean consulting family members, perhaps a partner, having those conversations, assessing their life situation, whatever things that they consider important before making that decision,” Kumar, who works at the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, told Insider. 

Dr. Bhavik Kumar

Courtesy of Dr. Bhavik Kumar

The next step would be finding an abortion provider, which already isn’t an easy feat in Texas.

Currently, Kumar said, waits can up to three or four weeks. Plus, Texas has a “mandatory delay,” meaning the patient has to visit the clinic twice before going through with the procedure. “They would have to see the same physician, which is not always possible,” he said. 

Finally, patients need to find a way to pay for abortions. The average out of pocket costs for women in the US is $474, research has found, even when there’s some financial assistance involved. In Texas, insurance of any kind isn’t allowed. 

“The most common reason I hear from patients about why they need time before they come back for their abortion is because of financial reasons,” Kumar said. “And so they would have to navigate that gauntlet all before coming back before that six week mark, which is essentially impossible for the vast majority of folks that I already take care of, let alone if this were to be enforced.” 

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