Disclaimer: The information on this website is not legal advice.

We know that it may not always be safe to stand up for or exercise your rights even though you know them. We know that your rights may not always be protected or recognized if you try to exercise them. However, we think it is important to know your rights and have this information available. So here you can find information about your rights in an encounter with police. There is also information about your rights if you want or need to get medical care after a self-managed abortion.

Your Rights When Seeking Medical Care

As travel to clinics becomes more difficult, people may seek alternate solutions to ending their pregnancies. As new information to access changes during this time, please contact the helpline for questions regarding information on abortion during COVID-19 and see our policy platform demands to provide safe coronavirus abortion access for all.

No state requires doctors or health care providers to report someone who self-managed an abortion to the police.

If they know you self-managed your abortion, they should not tell anyone without your permission. State and federal laws require doctors and hospitals to keep your medical information private.

If you are a minor, usually meaning someone under the age of 18, the laws in your state may allow the doctor to tell your parent or guardian. You can call us if you are a minor and you have questions about your medical privacy rights in your state.

If the doctor or hospital staff do not know you self-managed your abortion, you have no legal obligation to tell them.

Sometimes, doctors and hospital staff may share your information even though they should not. If this has happened to you, you can contact our helpline to learn more about your legal rights.

If you have been investigated or arrested for self-managing an abortion, call or message us.

Even though medical providers should always get consent before performing any kind of test, unfortunately, this is not always the case. But even if you were tested, doctors say that there is no test that can detect the medications commonly used for abortion in the United States.

Learn more about abortion pills here.

You have the right to emergency medical care in every hospital emergency room, even if you do not have insurance.

There is a misconception that immigrants’ access to abortion is illegal. Everyone has the right to emergency medical care in every hospital emergency room, no matter your immigration status. This includes abortion access for undocumented people, including undocumented minors.

It is true that immigration officers have made arrests in some hospitals. Learn more about your rights here.

If you are under age 18 and seeking an abortion, laws vary by state and may allow the doctor to tell your parent or guardian.

You can call us if you have questions about when you can get an abortion, your medical privacy rights in your state, and questions about parental consent or judicial bypass.

More information about judicial bypass can be found here.

If this is a medical emergency, please call 9-1-1 for help.

Our helpline cannot provide medical advice or information, but you can contact the M+A hotline, which is operated by doctors that can give you expert medical advice. You can contact the M+A hotline at 1-833-246-2632 or visit their website for more information.

Your Rights If Police Question You

In-Person Interactions

If they say you are free to leave, then you have the right to leave right away and stop talking to the police or answer their questions.

If they say you are not free to leave, you are considered under arrest. You cannot leave, but you still do not have to talk to the police or answer their questions. Read more below about being under arrest.

You can ask for more information about what this is about and get the contact information of the officer.

You can let the officer know you will speak with an attorney and get back to them.

You can talk to an attorney before you call the officer back or go to the station.

You can have someone, including a lawyer, go to the station with you.

It’s always a good idea to not meet with the police alone.

You can check with your local public defender office for assistance.

There may be other no-cost legal services in your area that can help you or direct you to someone else who can help.

If You Are Placed Under Arrest

The police are not required to read you your rights during an arrest, but police are required to read your rights before questioning you. These are called Miranda Warnings, which can sound a bit different depending on where you are, but generally, this is what it looks/sounds like:

This means you do not have to talk to the police. Your choice to remain silent cannot be used against you.

You do still have to say something like “I am exercising my right to remain silent” and then stop talking.

You have a right to a lawyer, even if you cannot afford one. A lawyer will be assigned to help you, at no cost to you. In some places, it will be a public defender office. In others, it may be another attorney who has volunteered to take the case.

Depending on where you are arrested, your right to a lawyer may become active at different parts of the legal process starting from when the arrest happens onward. If you are not sure, you can just try and ask to speak to a lawyer anyway.

If you want to talk to a lawyer, you would have to say something like “I want to talk to a lawyer, I am exercising my right to remain silent,” and then remain silent. Remember not to start new conversations with the police after asserting your rights.

It’s always a good idea to only speak to police with your lawyer there with you, to help support you and give you more information.

Keep in mind, if you are not free to leave, then you are under arrest. This is true even if you have not been handcuffed, taken somewhere else, or had your rights read to you. You have these rights even if the police don’t read them to you or otherwise mention them to you. You can still say “I do not want to speak with you anymore. I want to talk to a lawyer.”

If You Are Questioned After You Are Arrested

When someone is questioned by the police after they are arrested, this is called an interrogation. You could be getting interrogated on the street or at your home, even if you have not been taken to a police station.

Before an interrogation, police may read you Miranda Warnings, ask you if you understand, and then ask if you want to speak with them. Again, even if police do not mention your rights and read you Miranda Warnings, you still have those rights.

Other Questions

If you have been questioned by the police or arrested because of your abortion, contact the helpline. We will do our best to help you find a lawyer. If you already have a lawyer, we may be able to work with your lawyer to help defend you.

Most of the time, the police cannot search you or your home without a warrant or your permission. They also cannot go into your home at all without a warrant unless there is an exception. Read more below about exceptions.

  • A warrant is a piece of paper that gives the police permission to make arrests and do certain searches.

If the police have a search warrant, you can ask to see the warrant, you can ask for a copy of the warrant, you can take a photo of the warrant and send it to someone, including your lawyer.

You can refuse a search of your home if the police do not have a warrant with the judge’s signature on it.

A search warrant tells the police where they can search. You do not have to let them search anywhere not listed on the warrant.

Exceptions: Police can search without a warrant, even if you refuse, if:

  • they can see evidence of a crime without entering your home
    • Or if they have entered the home, they can search and take evidence that they can see, even if it is not covered in the search warrant
  • you are arrested — in that case, police are allowed to search you and the nearby area, either during or right after the arrest
  • the police believe someone is in immediate danger or a crime is happening
  • if they think there is evidence in a car during a traffic stop

You have a right to a lawyer, even if you cannot afford one. A lawyer will be assigned to help you, at no cost to you. In some places, it will be a public defender office. In others, it may be another attorney who has volunteered to take the case.

Depending on where you are arrested, your right to a lawyer may become active at different parts of the legal process starting from when the arrest happens onward. If you are not sure, you can just try and ask to speak to a lawyer anyway.

If you want to talk to a lawyer, you would have to say something like “I want to talk to a lawyer, I am exercising my right to remain silent,” and then remain silent. Remember not to start new conversations with the police after asserting your rights.

It’s always a good idea to only speak to police with your lawyer there with you, to help support you and give you more information.

Keep in mind, if you are not free to leave, then you are under arrest. This is true even if you have not been handcuffed, taken somewhere else, or had your rights read to you. You have these rights even if the police don’t read them to you or otherwise mention them to you. You can still say “I do not want to speak with you anymore. I want to talk to a lawyer.”

Yes, it is legal to openly record police while they are working, as long as you are not preventing them from doing their job.

Some states do make it a crime to secretly record anyone (including police) without their permission.

Sometimes, police may not know the law, and tell you to stop recording or they may try to take your device.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Mobile Justice App, available in some states, can automatically upload footage to the ACLU. Learn more here.

The legal risk for home abortion on your own largely depends on where you live. In South Carolina, Oklahoma, or Nevada (22+ weeks pregnant) there are criminal laws prohibiting self-managed abortion, which increases the legal risk in those states.

Read more about abortion laws in these 3 states:

If you have questions about self-managed abortion or need legal information or advice, contact helpline at 844.868.2812.

Disclaimer: On this page, we provide links to organizations and websites that are not a part of If/When/How or our helpline. We are not part of those organizations and If/When/How is not responsible for any information they offer and/or services they provide. We are not responsible for any actions you take based on the information and/or services they provide.