Not being able to get to a clinic shouldn’t stop you from accessing abortion
There have been multiple studies about the abortion pill (also known as a medication abortion) released recently, as was evidenced by the responses from reproductive health experts I spoke with for this piece, who asked me if I was referring to “the Peru study” or “the British study.”
The study conducted in Peru – where abortion is illegal unless deemed necessary to save the life of the mother – found that one can safely use the abortion pill on their own without each step being supervised by a clinician (although following up in person with a clinician is recommended). In other words, if you can access the abortion pill, along with accurate information about how to take it, you can self-manage your abortion. The British study, published in May 2017 and focusing on people seeking abortion in Ireland and Northern Ireland, where it’s tricky at best to obtain an abortion, revealed that abortions that are self managed via telemedicine were usually as effective and safe as those conducted in a doctor’s office.
Here’s a tiny crash course in taking the abortion pill (which is actually two pills) : Whether or not you take it in a doctor’s office, the procedure starts with mifepristone, which blocks your body’s output of progesterone, the hormone that enables the fetus to continue gestating. Between 24 and 48 hours later, you’ll take misoprostol, a medicine that will start bleeding and cramping, which will eventually empty your uterus.
The abortion pill via self-management is a great (and safe) option for folks who can’t access a clinic for any reason – you might be in an area where getting to a clinic is impossible. You might not want anyone to know you’re seeking an abortion. However, obtaining the abortion pill without going to a clinic is difficult, and in many states, illegal.
An online search for “abortion pill through mail” will render over 600,000 results, but slogging through them all to figure out which are actual the abortion pill is difficult at best. Not only can it be hard to ascertain what you’re getting, but an October 2017 piece in Rewire revealed that even when the pills you receive are actually the abortion pill, you almost never get instructions with them, so it’s back to the Internet to find a reliable source for that.
Women Help Women is a resource committed to helping abortion seekers obtain the abortion pill (as well as other contraceptives) and help using it. The consultation happens entirely online, and it’s quick. If you live in the United States or a US territory, the site will send you to another site, where you can learn about self-managed abortion specifically. It’s not just about finding out how to get the pill and getting it, but also how to know if the abortion was effective, potential complications, what to expect if you take misoprostol alone – as opposed to the combination of mifepristone and misoprostol. The site, which is directed by doctors and medical professionals, offers everything you’d need to know about managing your own abortion, which, according to research, is safe. (If you need more convincing, mifepristone and misoprostol were included on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines, meaning that they should be made accessible and available in a basic health care system.
This cannot be overstated: it’s abortion stigma that encourages us to believe that abortion, be it medication or surgical, is not safe. And because there’s so much doubt and outright suspicion – even when it takes place in a doctor’s office – the idea that someone would chose to conduct her own abortion in her home can sound terrifying and dangerous. Ultimately, of course, the choice is yours, as it should be, but the answer to the question of whether or not you can self-manage your abortion, in your home, or where ever you feel safe, is yes.
Cover image courtesy of Getty Images