There are a number of different ways people choose to self-manage their abortions. One increasingly common way is with abortion medication – a combination of pills. Over 20 years of use has proven these pills are extremely safe and effective in ending a pregnancy. In fact, abortions with pills now account for more than half of all abortions in the United States.
Medication abortion is an FDA-approved method to end a pregnancy that consists of two medications: mifepristone and misoprostol. Many people are already obtaining these medications to use in the setting they choose, despite the legal and logistical barriers. Misoprostol can also be taken safely on its own, and can be far less expensive and more accessible in situations with barriers and/or restrictions.
If it were only about the science, we believe these pills would already be available over the counter – to pick up when and where it is convenient like other similarly safe medications. When they are provided along with instructions, what to expect, and possible side effects they could be used to self-manage care and just like other health issues, a person who experiences a rare or unexpected side effect would seek medical attention.
For more information on how abortion medication works, you can visit the following resources:
For centuries, people have ended their own pregnancies using herbs, teas, or other methods passed down from families and cultural traditions over generations. Some of those traditions are still used today. Herbs to self-manage an abortion are part of both ancient Indigenous knowledge and current lived experience. For many people they may feel like a more natural choice or may be more accessible. No matter how someone chooses to self-manage their abortion, they should never face shame, stigma, arrest, or prosecution.
With abortion bans going into effect in states throughout the country, more and more people will be unable to receive care at a provider in their community, forcing some into carrying unwanted or unviable pregnancies and others into shouldering the financial and logistical burden of traveling out of state for care.
For many people impacted by abortion bans, medically harmful restrictions and barriers to clinic-based care, self-managing abortion is already the best or only option. Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, this will become increasingly true for millions more.
We must ensure that everyone has access to the full spectrum of abortion options. That means keeping our clinics open and expanding the number of providers; investing in abortion funds; and ensuring people know about self-managed abortion resources and are not criminalized for accessing abortion in any way, including self-managing or helping others who choose to self-manage.
Some people who end their own pregnancies are unjustly interrogated, arrested, and charged by law enforcement. While only three states explicitly make self-managing an abortion a crime, the reality is that If/When/How: lawyering for Reproductive Justice, has identified over 40 laws not intended for abortion that are being misused to prosecute people for self-managing their care. With the overturning of Roe, we expect more states to directly ban self-managed abortion. Politicians in many states have already imposed regulations that create barriers to the use of medication abortion specifically, as well as barriers to accessing safe, effective, patient-centered, equitable abortion services generally. They prohibit qualified providers from providing care, exaggerate or lie about the (actually very minimal) risks, overrule patients’ and clinicians’ medical decision making, or require medically unnecessary services and delays in care.
Arrests and prosecutions of people who seek to safely self-manage their abortions are likely to affect the same people who are already disproportionately impacted by prosecution, police violence, racial bias, discrimination and stigmatization: Black, Indigenous and people of color, people who are struggling financially, immigrants, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people, young people, Trans, non-binary, gender expansive and others who face the most barriers to reproductive health care.
Politicians in many states are also enacting laws that punish people who help anyone who has an abortion. They aim to cut off the sources of support that people seeking abortion would turn to and make friends, family, and those with the information pregnant people need afraid to provide assistance.
No one should face criminal charges, incarceration, or any form of punishment for making their own pregnancy decisions, including abortion, or for helping someone do that.
If you or someone you know is being investigated, detained, arrested, or concerned they might be questioned by the police for having an abortion or for helping someone have an abortion, contact the Repro Legal Helpline.