Advocates struggle to determine how much they can help with self-managed abortions

At a rally in Nashville, Planned Parenthood organizer Julie Edwards looked at some of the “back alley abortion” images on signs, including bloody coat hangers. But, Edwards told the crowd, driven to the streets by the US Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights, it’s not like before. Roe vs. Wade.

Almost a decade ago, Edwards was a teenager receiving drugs from older friends. Edwards said that could be the new normal in abortion-banning states like Tennessee.

“I stand before you after having a self-directed abortion, after receiving abortion pills from people in my community. And I’m safe,” Edwards said to cheers. “We’re going to have to keep all our secrets, hold hands, protect each other.”

Medicines are now available for first trimester abortions. And it has become the main way to induce abortions.

The plan includes two prescription drugs that have been on the market for deer was decided in 1973. Mifepristone is taken first. It is the abortion drug which is quite expensive and highly regulated. A day or two later, the patient takes misoprostol, which is much more widely available and can work on its own to induce an abortion. The drug was developed to treat ulcers in the 1970s, but it has several other off-label uses aside from abortions, such as arthritis relief. It is even prescribed for animals, so veterinary supply stores sell the drug. Misoprostol is even sold without a prescription in Mexico.

“It’s really based on what someone can get. And in the self-directed setting, the only way to get mifepristone plus misoprostol is through the internet, so it takes time to wait for delivery,” said Susan Yanow, spokesperson for Women Help Women, a non-profit organization based on four continents that works to increase access to abortion.

The international organization ships both drugs worldwide, but not to the United States, as laws vary wildly from state to state. Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have already started deleting posts offering to send these drugs by mail. Many states that now prohibit abortion have recently tightened their mail-order abortifacient laws.

“We always have the right to share information,” Yanow said. “People use the internet. People use their phones. People will find ways to get these pills.”

Using Abortion Pills Safely

But it’s more than just finding the drugs, which is why Yanow’s organization has an in-depth guide on how to use them safely. And she provides training to local reproductive rights groups, as do others.

Lynsey Bourke of Self-Guided Abortion, based in Montana, began producing video tutorials late last year and posting them on Youtube, explaining how to use misoprostol alone and suggesting ways to make the process easier. sacred by building an altar, burning incense and lighting candles. . She even teaches post-abortion yoga classes.

With misoprostol alone, multiple cycles are required. Nausea is common. And the drug induces cramping and bleeding that can be alarming to those unprepared.

Even some OB-GYNs quietly support self-managed abortion.

“I worry more about people who can’t access any of these sources and are so desperate that they take matters into their own hands,” said Dr. Nikki Zite, obstetrician-gynecologist at the Medical Center of the University of Tennessee. in Knoxville.

She said clinical advice before taking the pill combo is ideal. For example, some patients are anemic and may bleed enough to require emergency care. And some just can’t stand the pain and a lot of blood.

“Not all patients are good candidates for miscarriage at home,” she said.

But at this stage, Zite cannot afford to provide this consultation. In Tennessee, she would face a felony and jail time under a six-week ban currently in place and a comprehensive abortion ban set to go into effect in August. And we don’t know how far law enforcement is willing to go.

Tennessee laws specifically exempt the pregnant person from prosecution. But a motivated prosecutor could find ways to press charges for a self-directed abortion, Nashville criminal defense attorney David Raybin said.

“I mean, it’s full of peril,” Raybin said. “I would strongly advise against a woman using such underground quote-unquote methods to obtain drugs like this.”

He said it was better to have a legal abortion in another state. But abortion rights activists in Tennessee say they know traveling will be difficult for many. And even for those who can, a self-managed abortion may be more convenient. To some extent, reproductive rights groups are willing to help navigate the legal gray area.

Risk assessment

Healthy and Free Tennessee, an organization working to promote sexual health and reproductive freedom, has held several training sessions through Women Help Women in recent weeks. Policy director Nina Gurak said their biggest worry was not the health complications, but the legal risk.

“We recommend that if a person is self-managing an abortion, they have a supporter or friend. That supporter or friend may be at greater legal risk than the actual person self-managing an abortion,” he said. she declared. “And then you have to decide for yourself – is this something I’m comfortable with? Is this something I’m not comfortable with?”

Organizations in abortion-banning states have their own risk to assess. They are convinced that the First Amendment protects the sharing of medical information approved by the World Health Organization.

But abortion rights advocates are torn between raising awareness and becoming a target for anti-abortion lawmakers — no longer constrained by Roe vs. Wade.

“We are certainly concerned about the growing criminalization of abortion or self-directed abortion and abortion pills,” Gurak said. “We also want to balance that with the need for communities to have the information they need to make the decision for themselves.”

Copyright 2022 WPLN News. To learn more, visit WPLN News.
Back To Top