Unwanted pregnancies can cause a tremendous amount of stress, and the decision to terminate such a pregnancy is not one that most women take lightly. When finances are added to this already-difficult situation, the stresses multiply. Worse, abortion is a politically charged issue, and this influences their availability. If you’re contemplating an abortion, you’ll need to know how to pay for it, and you may be unwilling to contact the insurance company directly to ask.

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to whether health insurance will cover an abortion procedure. This varies from one state to the next as well as among individual insurance companies. Below are some general guidelines. For a more specific answer, you may need to contact the insurance company itself or have someone contact it on your behalf.

Will Health Insurance Cover an Abortion?

Abortion became legal in the 1973 court case Roe v. Wade. Although it is still technically legal, many states have enacted legislation that makes obtaining an abortion extremely difficult. Additionally, many insurance companies will not pay for abortions. It may be offered as a coverage only for those willing to pay higher premiums, or coverage may not be offered at all.

Insurance companies have the right to choose what coverage will be offered, and many companies prefer to keep their expenses low by offering limited coverage. For example, many insurance companies restrict their coverage only to procedures deemed medically necessary. This reasoning also applies to abortions in some cases: If the abortion is deemed a medical necessity, the procedure may be covered by insurance. This is true in cases where continuing a pregnancy to term could result in physical harm to the mother; it may also be true of cases where the fetus will not survive to term.

Other insurance companies deny abortion coverage altogether. With these companies, it’s important to confirm how abortion is defined. For example, a fetus may die before being carried to term. In this case, it may be necessary to induce labor or otherwise remove the fetus. This would usually be considered medically necessary, but some insurance companies may claim that this is an abortion and refuse to cover the cost. In these situations, communicating with your doctor is vital to getting the procedure covered.

State-funded insurance offered in insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act face other limitations. Many states are refusing to sell insurance that covers abortion. At present, 20 states refuse abortion coverage in their state-funded insurance. Private or group policies in these states may still cover the procedure, but you would need to confirm that with the insurance company to be sure.

How Much Will the Abortion Cost?

Abortion costs vary according to several factors, including where the procedure is completed, the type of abortion completed and its level of difficulty. First-trimester abortions average between $350 and $600. Second-trimester abortions or those with any sort of complication will cost more. It is not legal to obtain a late-term or third-trimester abortion.

There are two primary abortion methods. The first is a surgical method. The second requires the use of drugs to induce labor. In both cases, the procedure is easier and more affordable when it is completed early in the pregnancy.

Other Options

Because abortion can be both expensive and pricey, it’s a good idea to avoid the situation whenever possible. Of course, it is never entirely possible to prevent unwanted pregnancies, especially those caused by non-consensual sex. Nevertheless, options exist that can help prevent pregnancy, and these will be much more affordable and less invasive than an abortion procedure.

Birth control and other forms of contraception are the first line of defense against pregnancy. Not all insurance companies will pay for birth control, but it’s becoming more common as legislation begins to mandate that all insurers must offer this coverage. Be aware that the insurance company may not cover all brands of birth control even if contraceptives in general are covered; be sure to check in advance to confirm.

If contraceptives fail, the so-called “morning after pill” or “Plan B” can be useful. These can be purchased at any pharmacy without a prescription and will cost around $30. They’re only effective if taken immediately after unprotected sex, but they are an option for some women.

As a woman, it’s always important to understand how your health insurance will apply to various procedures. Understanding your coverage will help prevent you from unwelcome surprises down the line. It’s always better to know whether your insurance company will pay for the procedure you need before it becomes a necessity.