Rebecca Gomperts: How a Dutch doctor sending abortion pills to the US could become the most important doctor for millions

A Dutch doctor who sent abortion pills to women in America says his task has never been more essential and the demand for help has never been higher.

As up to 25 states across the United States enact full or near-total abortion bans, Rebecca Gomperts, 56, and her organization Aid Access could become the most important – and controversial – doctor in life. countless thousands of women.

Since 2018, her group has been writing prescriptions and then distributing abortion medication to women in large parts of the country.

Since the Supreme Court overturned last week Roe vs. Wadethe 1973 ruling that declared there was a constitutional right to abortion, she says interest in her group skyrocketed.

Gomperts, whose organization is based in Austria, says The Independent he now receives 4,000 emails a day from women in the United States, up from 600 a day.

“It’s unprecedented. What we’ve seen is that a lot of women are really desperate,” she says.

“It shows that people will find access. And fortunately, it is another time. Abortion pills exist, and there is the Internet. And that was not the case 50 years ago.

Three decades ago, Gomperts spent a year as a resident doctor on the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior II. She speaks of the effort to help women in the United States in their fight to access reproductive assistance with the same activist zeal.

“I think the most worrying part here is that what was shown in the verdict is that it’s not the only human right that’s going to go to the United States, because of many human rights are based on the same principles,” she said. . “For example, same-sex marriage and many other things.”

She adds: “As a citizen of the world, it is very disturbing to see this happening in the United States, because it means that democracy is crumbling and that women’s rights, people’s rights, human rights disappear. And it becomes an autocratic regime that is now ruled by an old fundamentalist Christian ideology.

Reports have pointed out that the demand for abortive drugs, which consists of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, taken separately and spaced 24 to 48 hours apart, was already high before a draft Supreme Court judgment examining a Mississippi law won’t be leaked in May.

The leaked draft of the decision on the 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi showed not only that there was a majority of justices in favor of this bill, but that there were enough of them also to cancel deer.

From October 2020 to December 2021, the non-profit organization Aid Access said it received more than 45,000 drug requests from women in the United States.

After consulting with Aid Access doctors, prescriptions are written and then the actual drugs are shipped to the women’s private addresses from India, the world’s largest producer of generic drugs.

In the days following last week’s 5-4 decision – Chief Justice John Roberts voted to keep the Mississippi law but not drop it deer — with Donald Trump’s appointment of three conservative justices at his heart, activists across the country scrambled to respond. The priority is to provide services to women in large parts of the country where abortion is prohibited.

AOC joins protests after Roe v Wade canceled

Medical abortions already account for more than half of all abortions in the country. But in the weeks and months to come, that proportion is likely to rise, as women in places like Louisiana — described by one reporter as an “abortion desert surrounded by an abortion desert” – have to travel hundreds of kilometers to reach the clinics.

While medical abortion is now illegal in these states and doctors who counsel women on how to use the drugs as well as the women themselves can be prosecuted, activists believe there is a de facto loophole. if the drugs are shipped from abroad, and therefore much more difficult to monitor.

Gomperts and Aid Access aren’t the only nonprofits offering medical abortions.

On the weekend, the New York Times said the group Just the Pill, had conducted 2,500 telemedicine consultations with doctors to deliver abortion pills by mail to patients in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming.

Dr. Julie Amaon, the group’s medical director, said within days it would establish the first of a “fleet of mobile clinics” in Colorado to park along state lines. They aim to help women in Texas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

“By operating at state borders, we will reduce travel costs for patients in states with severe bans or limits,” Amaon said. “And by going beyond a traditional brick-and-mortar clinic, our mobile clinics can quickly adapt to courts, state legislatures and marketplaces, going where the need is.”

(The group said it is currently too busy to respond to further media inquiries.)

Gomperts says his group also works with suppliers from the United States, so they have what is effectively a hybrid system.

Rebecca Gomperts (2nd R) offered abortions to women in Ireland before the law change in 2018

(Getty Images)

When asked what her group was looking for now, she replied that in the short term, they were doing what they could.

“What is possible is out there – there is telemedicine, there are groups that will help him and go to other states. Everything is set up. There is funding for that,” she said.

But longer-term strategy planning is also essential.

“This Supreme Court is going to be here for another 20 to 30 years. We have to be smarter. And so one of the things we’re working on is developing misoprostol, which is the abortion bill as a contraceptive,” she says.

“It is a very effective contraceptive method and it does not have side effects like hormonal contraceptives.”

She added: ‘We really want to do this research to make it available, so that these drugs are more widely available and women can use them however they want, either as a contraceptive, or as an emergency contraceptive, or as a pill. early abortion. We believe this is where the next revolution can take place.

In 1999, Gomperts started Women on Waves, a group that used real boats to travel to countries like Ireland, Guatemala and Portugal, sail 12 miles from shore and into international waters – where the ship was. subject to Dutch law – and provide counseling and abortions to women who would not have been able to access it.

His work was featured in the 2014 documentary Vessel, directed by Diana Whitten. (Ireland legalized abortion up to 12 weeks in 2018.)

The group also attempted to airlift drugs to Poland using drones in 2015, only to have the devices and pills confiscated by police.

In Guatemala, the authorities dispatched the navy. Same in Portugal. There were often angry scenes. Gomperts was unfazed.

“We get a lot of very grateful women,” she said in a 2017 interview with British charity Human Rights at Sea.

“That’s what matters to us. That’s the only thing at stake. All other actions and opinions don’t really matter. It is the women who need help.“

Gomperts views work that helps women in the United States through a similar social justice lens.

“What happens when abortion is banned is that it only affects people who don’t have money and don’t have access to information. If Trump’s wife, or daughter, if she chooses, she can travel anywhere and have a safe abortion,” she said.

“So it really only affects people who are poor and have no resilience to these things. And that’s why it’s a matter of social justice.

There’s another factor when thinking about banning abortion, she says.

The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates of any developed country, about 1 in 5,000, a figure that is double for black women. On the other hand, abortion has proven to be very safe. (In 2019, there were between 630,000 and 930,000 abortions nationwide depending on the data used.)

“What you will see is that many of these people will not be able to access safe abortion because for them it is much more difficult to access the internet for example, especially in rural communities,” says -she. “And there will be people who will have to experience an unwanted birth and that will lead to more maternal mortality.”

While the Biden administration has said it wants to support the provision of abortion drugs, should Republicans return to the White House in 2024, there is no such guarantee.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, among the potential candidates for the Republican nomination, is among those who have backed a nationwide ban on abortion.

“Having been given this second chance at life, we must not rest and not give in until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the country,” he said. he told Breitbart News.

Is Gomperts afraid that if Donald Trump, or one of his followers, is sitting in the Oval Office, that his work will continue?

“There is no way to stop abortion pills from entering the states and into the hands of women. It doesn’t matter who’s going to do it, but it’s going to happen and there’s going to be a lot of other people around doing it,” she said.

“No matter how hard he tries, he won’t succeed. Let’s put it like that.

Back To Top