It’s not birth control or contraception, and it’s not a plan B. It’s FDA-approved abortion pills that are accessible by mail in all 50 states of the United States as fully sanctioned activity, regardless of reproductive health restrictions. It comes from lifted restrictions on these pills by the FDA last yearallowing patients to receive a prescription by mail through a telemedicine appointment with a healthcare provider, eliminating the need for in-person pickup.
Starting with the Dobbs vs. Jackson leaked on May 2, and launched on the day of the June 24 decision to override Roe v. Wade, co-founder Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz and his team worked diligently on Mayday, a health education association aimed at providing information about abortion pills, how to access them and the possible risks associated with receiving an abortion through the mail.
The nonprofit is working to fill an educational gap in a way that is “new and complementary” to reproductive education resources that already exist, without being redundant, Horwitz said. He notes about this educational gap that nine out of 10 Americans don’t know that abortion pills exist, or confuse them with the Plan B morning-after pill. pretty much about birth control awareness today, according to Horwitz.
“The goal is to give people the information they need to make their own decisions about their own bodies…We wanted to make sure that people had the health resources, the legal resources and the awareness that ‘there are safe and effective abortion pills,’ Horwitz said.
In order to gain tools to close this gap, the Mayday team spoke with dozens of medical professionals, reproductive health, rights and justice experts and civil rights lawyers about safety , access and availability of abortion pills. The site then functions as a platter to serve up this information in a distilled and easily digestible way, giving everyone the resources to make their own breeding decisions.
Horwitz told The Times that these pills are 97% effective in the first trimester and are 99.4% safe, according to the FDA, sending fewer people to the hospital than Tylenol. Essentially, the pills stop the continuation of the pregnancy by stopping the production of progesterone and causing contractions. These pills range from $150 to $250 from telehealth providers, which he says is 10 times cheaper than the cost of traveling to a clinic in another state for an in-clinic procedure.
Although there are associated risks and costs, Horwitz called it “a pretty powerful antidote to the risk of a federal restriction of the right to choose” and “the best of the bad options at a time when more than 60 million people have lost access to clinics”. in their States and in their communities. Horwitz also said the most effective way to combat “states that attempt to restrict abortion to various capacities without any limitations on what those restrictions may look like, because Roe vs. Wade has disappeared” is to have access to these drugs in advance.
Team Mayday is made up of four core members who bring a slow cooker of skills: Olivia Raisner, Sam Koppelman, Kaori Sueyoshi, and Horwitz. Raisner, who was President Biden’s itinerant digital director, serves as Mayday’s chief creative officer as a digital and creative expert. Koppelman, a New York Times best-selling author, is responsible for communications. Sueyoshi, formerly director of innovation at Planned Parenthood, spearheads Mayday’s strategy as a lifelong reproductive rights activist. Horwitz, who currently sits on the boards of eight health care and biotechnology companies, oversees the general operations of Mayday, including website management and fundraising for legal documents, as well as setup and maintenance. creation of the non-profit organization itself. Horwitz is also a 2014 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and a Harvard alum, who grew up on the island but is now based in Boston. He stays at his family’s home in West Tisbury when he returns to the island.
Beyond this fixed team, volunteers as needed work with Mayday on various aspects of collecting and presenting information to the public, as well as fundraising, taking place offline with foundations and philanthropists. Horwitz notes that other consultants provide legal support to the organization, advocating for protective laws and free speech, contributing to a key premise of Mayday’s work: although people may try to ban abortion, information certainly cannot be prohibited.
“Everything Mayday does is legal, and we have incredible pro bono representation by top litigators from Hogan Lovells, Davis Wright Tremaine and the Morgan Lewis litigation team. These include some of the best lawyers in the country and some of the best experts on free speech, which is fundamentally what Mayday is all about: free speech of education information” , Horwitz said.
The Mayday website first presents any viewer with legal, health and digital privacy resources, then general facts about the safety, legality and effectiveness of abortion pills, before moving on to the three-step process for mail to anyone’s door. Horwitz said this was intended to provide the user with the opportunity to learn everything relevant to the process before making decisions.
The presentation of information aims to “present high-accuracy, usable information in the most accessible way possible,” Horwitz said. The Mayday team has worked towards this by keeping it simple, making the language easily understandable at fifth grade level, with a Spanish translation option. Additionally, according to Horwitz, every line on the website has been vetted by experts in relevant fields, including medicine, reproductive health care, justice, and civil rights.
When visiting the website, one thing to note is the distinctive color scheme, with the main color being a rich yet cool purple. This became Mayday’s defining color after Raisner noted on the team’s first call that fear is what people feel and what the team will have to deal with the most. From there, Raisner and Koppelman, with help from Robyn Kanner, graphic designer and head of Studio Gradients, chose this color to make its viewers stand out and compel, according to Horwitz. He said: “People fear doing something they may have been taught, even though it’s perfectly right for them to be in control of their own reproductive health care, so we wanted to make sure the aesthetic was comforting. …like a warm hug.”
Another notable aspect of the website is the “quick exit” button at the top right. Clicking this button instantly transforms the page into a weather website, with no visible traces of Mayday or anything related to abortion. Horwitz said the design was inspired by websites that strive to help survivors of domestic violence. It puts a level of protection around the user in cases where caution around friends or family members might be needed.
What trumps privacy is that the Mayday website does not track any individual user data, including any tracking on IP addresses or cookies, so no personally identifying information cannot be captured. There’s not even a contact or donate button. Horwitz said the goal was to ensure that if Mayday were to be hacked or subpoenaed, the website could not be used against any user, calling it “the anti-Facebook”, in contrast to the standard monitoring tools.
“We wanted to follow our own version of the Hippocratic oath, which in medicine is first and foremost to do no harm. We didn’t want Mayday to be used against anyone, so it was important that even if we tried, we could never tell who visited the site,” Horwitz said.
What the website tracks are zip codes, how long the website is open, and whether the page is completely closed or additional links are clicked. From this, since the website launched in June, the Mayday team could tell that most of the visits they got were from Texas, but people in all states with restrictions on abortion have been achieved. Additionally, the day after launch, telehealth providers featured in Mayday infographics via social media reported a 26-fold increase in web traffic. Overall, Horwitz reported, more than 25 million people were reached within the first 48 hours of the site’s launch.
As for reaching out to the local community on the island, Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard neighbors Lexi and Corby Reese held a public rally to learn more about Mayday after the church reproductive rights clothesline event. There, Horwitz spoke to a crowd about his organization and Mayday’s work. Horwitz will also speak at the church for his Aug. 21 sermon.
To visit the Mayday website, go to mayday.health. You can also check out Mayday’s instagram, Facebookand Twitter pages. Additional information resources can be found on the Mayday website.