Making a third-trimester abortion referral: Learning from patients

Kimport K, Landau C, Sella S

Patient Education and Counseling
Jul 2022



Research on abortion referral practices has focused on referral to first-trimester abortion care. Research has not examined whether and how these recommendations apply to referrals for abortion later in pregnancy.


We conducted a secondary analysis of semi-structured interviews with thirty third-trimester abortion patients of their experiences of referral from prenatal and/or pre-third-trimester abortion care. We used thematic coding to identify referral-related actions participants desired or wished providers would avoid.


Participants reported needs in referral for information that third-trimester abortion was a possibility and about third-trimester providers and funding resources. Several also reported a need for emotional support from the prenatal or abortion care provider who denied them abortion care.


Many factors important for first-trimester abortion referral are important in third-trimester abortion referral, but the specifics of third-trimester care (namely the paucity of clinics, need for travel, and possibility of strong emotional attachment to the pregnancy) require additional practice actions.

Practice implications

Providers can support their patients in need of third-trimester abortion care by proactively providing: information that third-trimester abortion is available; information on third-trimester providers and funding support (e.g., an abortion referral hotline); and clear, non-judgmental emotional support.