Monday, January 3, 2011

Everything you wanted to know about abortion hosting but were too afraid to ask

I know that sometimes us abortioneers take for granted that we understand the ins and outs of all things abortion and we leave our readers confused or seeking information. In past blogs we have written about the basics of 1st trimester procedures, 2nd trimester procedures, medical abortions, etc. I wanted to take the opportunity to go over some commonly asked questions about abortion hosting. Listed below are the questions I get most often, but feel free to ask about anything I forgot in the comments section.

How do women get connected with volunteer hosts?

Women usually do not get linked up with our service until their first day at the clinic (the women we host are almost always having 2-day second trimester procedures). When they arrive at the clinic they often find out that the cost of their procedure is more than they anticipated and they no longer have hotel money. Every now and then women know in advance that they will need hosting but it is usually the day of that everything transpires. The clinic staff will screen the woman to make sure she is a good fit for volunteer hosting and then the clinic staff will contact our volunteer hosting service to let us know there is a woman who needs to be hosted that night.

How do women get to your apartment?

I always go to the clinic to meet the women at the end of their first day. The law requires that women have someone pick them up from the clinic after being administered anesthesia. In addition, many women are not familiar with my city and would have a hard time navigating to find my apartment. When I go to the clinic to meet them the clinic staff always introduces us and the women are eager to get out of the clinic and head to a relaxing home and eat some food. I always offer to get a cab for the women, even though I rarely take cabs myself. Luckily I do not live too far from the clinics we work with so the cab ride is not super expensive. I know this is an added cost for myself but I try to put myself in their shoes and I think it would be hard to take mass transit during rush hour after all the anesthesia and long day at the clinic.

Do you cook meals for them?

Every woman I have hosted has either wanted to order takeout or has brought some food with her. After midnight they need to be NPO (no food or drink in their system) so breakfast is not an issue. In regards to the meals, I always offer to pay and the women usually appreciate and accept the offer. The money for the meals (and cabs) comes out of my own pocket and for me I see it as similar to a monthly donation that I give to improve abortion access.

Has anyone ever started passing the pregnancy or bled on your bed?

No! I have heard 1 or 2 stories about this but it has never happened to me. I knew when I signed up for this gig that it is a possibility, but it is one I am willing to accept.

Aren’t you worried that strangers will steal from you????

It definitely crosses my mind, just like it would cross my mind if I left my car door unlocked over night. Any person is at risk for being mugged or having property stolen from them at any time anywhere. I like to have faith in people and not assume the immediate worst. If I lived my life expecting the worst out of people that would be pretty shitty of me, right? Most of the women I have hosted (and their guests) have been extremely appreciative and truly thankful for my hospitality.

How do you feel about hosting the male partners?

We are given the option as hosts to pass on hosting a woman if she comes with a male guest (but don’t worry we will find a host who is open to hosting male partners). Many of us have tiny apartments and often these are studios with little privacy. In my first few months I said I was not going to host any women who had men with them, mainly because I will still getting used to hosting and was not 100% comfortable with an unknown male in my home. The clinics do a good job of screening for women who might be in an unsafe situation where the male partner could be abusive or could create a dangerous situation. If one partner wants the abortion and the other does not, this can lead to intimate partner violence (I think all of us who work in abortioneering have seen this in one form or another). It would not be safe for a volunteer host to have a couple in their home who might get violent due to the circumstances around their abortion. About six months ago I got a call to host a woman and her boyfriend and as I have mentioned before, they were the best guests I have had so far (my Beefaroni guests!).

What do you and the women (and their guests) do all night?

We talk a lot. We talk about their lives and my life and their abortion or not their abortion. We talk about future birth control methods, we talk about their gay brother, we talk about their career dreams of being a nurse, we talk about how they want to lose weight after the abortion, and we talk about celebrity gossip. We talk about my veganism and we talk about their children. We talk about the next day and what they can expect from the procedure and the weeks after. We watch the few TV stations that come in through my antenna; American Idol is a favorite. We watch my Netflix DVDs of Glee and we even once watched “Boys Don’t Cry”. Women go on walks in the park near my apartment and they go on my porch to smoke or they spend the entire night on their cell phone. Or they pass out right after dinner. Every woman has different needs and wants different things from me, and I do my best to provide.


  1. I'd be interested in hearing more about how the clinics screen patients and their loved ones to see if they're a fit for hosting. This is something that could be super beneficial in my city.

  2. This is great, as I've never known a real live host before. More questions: Do the guests tend to feel anxious about staying with strangers, or do they feel comfortable? Do they open up pretty quickly about personal stuff? Do they ever send you thank-you notes or leave gifts?

    Thanks, VV!

  3. Thanks for the great questions!

    In terms of screening, it's not really an official process, rather it is up to the clinic staff to gauge if a woman would be appropriate for housing. Things that would be red flags are evidence of being under the influence of alcohol/drugs, having an abusive/aggressive/violent partner with them, or just overall difficult to work with. I obviously never hear about the women who are not referred for housing so I don't know how often this happens.

    Most guests are very anxious when they arrive (not only because they are staying with a complete stranger but also because they are halfway through a 2-day abortion which is something most of them have never done before). Once they shower and eat and see that I have a normal home I can sense that they are more relaxed. One client told me she was relieved to see I had a clean home because she expected the worst.

    Most clients open up, specifically about their abortion circumstances. I think they feel they need to defend or explain their choice to me, because many of them have been isolated by their decision and they see me as one more person judging them. The fact that many of them travel alone and have had trouble securing the money means that they have been often keeping it a secret and are shamed. I repeatedly assure women that I am the last person to judge them and I fully support their choice. I have never gotten any gifts but I do always give women my cell phone number and check in with them the next day and sometimes a few days after. I have gotten many "thank yous" via text. Maybe I'll share some of those in a future blog...

  4. Thanks for sharing this - I think it would be really interesting to find out how other pro-choice advocates can help support a hosting program. Unfortunately, I think a lot of states have a similar need.


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