Jhe Supreme Court this week overturned Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. Abortion restrictions of varying severity are now poised to sweep across many US states, creating a confusing patchwork of rules and severely limiting reproductive care across much of the country.
Clinics will close and conservative lawmakers will work to clamp down on remaining avenues for abortion care. However, the disappearance of half-century-old federal protections will not prevent people who want abortions from obtaining them. Here we outline some of the remaining options for residents of the most restrictive states.
I’m asking for an abortion, but my state just banned the procedure. What do I do?
First, check the latest information about your condition. Even though lawmakers have promised to ban the procedure, the timeline for implementing the bans will differ from state to state. You can get an update on your state’s situation via this tracker of the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion access research organization.
Out of state travel
If your state has banned abortion, one option is to travel to a state that allows it. Some state lawmakers have said they want to criminalize traveling across state lines for an abortion, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Abortion search has a comprehensive directory of trusted and verified abortion providers in the United States. Using your state and the date of the last rules, it lists the nearest clinics where you can still legally get an abortion, as well as the procedures offered by the clinic and the applicable laws in that state. Pay attention to restrictions at your destination – in some states, for example, patients must endure a waiting time between a first consultation and an abortion.
Make sure the clinic you plan to go to actually offers abortions – this may seem obvious, but many “pregnancy crisis centers” appear to be abortion clinics, but don’t actually offer the procedure. This can waste people’s valuable time.
Access financial support
If you need help paying for an abortion, child care, travel or accommodation, contact your local abortion fund. You can find a list of groups via the National Network of Abortion Funds. Be sure to calculate what is costing you box cover, if applicable, before calling.
Get abortion pills
Medical abortions are an FDA-approved method of self-managing an abortion, up to 10 weeks pregnant (although the World Health Organization said pills can be used to self-manage abortion up to 12 weeks). The pills are safe – less dangerous than Tylenol – and effective in 99.6% of cases. In many states, they are accessible via telehealth. Resources like Plan C list options for accessing abortion pills based on where you live and reputable services such as Access to aid ship pills overseas to states where the procedure is restricted. Aid Access will also send you pills to keep on hand even if you are not pregnant.
Abortion pill suppliers also offer instructions for taking the medicine and what to do in case of complications. Warning: there is no shortage of fraudulent sites. Plan C has tested pills from listed online pharmacies, but notes that they cannot continually vouch for their reliability. .
Can I be sued for having an abortion if my state has prohibited the procedure?
Self-directed abortion is criminalized in three states – Nevada, Oklahoma and South Carolina – and exists elsewhere in a sort of legal gray area. Even in the most restrictive states, anti-abortion laws generally target providers and exempt the pregnant person from criminalization. However, experts warn that could change if conservative lawmakers feel emboldened to pass even tougher laws.
The fact that current laws exempt pregnant women, however, does not mean that self-managed abortion is safe. In the United States, people have been sued over pregnancy outcomes, including after accessing abortion pills online, and advocates worry about the increased criminalization of self-directed abortion without Roe’s protections. If you are considering self-management of your abortion or have questions about the legal risks associated with ordering pills online, see the Repro Legal Helpline at 844-868-2812.
What should I do to protect myself?
Proponents worry that states that ban abortion will use aggressive measures — especially increased digital surveillance — to investigate people they suspect of having or facilitating abortions. This could mean that law enforcement officials are accessing troves of digital data, including location information, period tracking apps, web browsing history, or text and call records.
There are several ways law enforcement officials can access data that could ultimately be used as evidence. In addition to subpoenaing companies, law enforcement may purchase stocks of compromising information from data brokers, which are companies that often collect or purchase your information directly from the services you use. We have already seen examples of prosecutors using web search evidence to criminalize pregnancy loss.
Organizations like the Digital Defense Fund and Electronic Frontier Foundation have resources on things you can do to keep your information private if you are researching your options or self-managing an abortion. These include using private and encrypted messaging apps such as Signalwhich is free and very easy to use and does not store your messages on company servers, making it harder for law enforcement to access them.
Unlike Google, which logs all your searches, making them relatively easily accessible to the police, DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that does not save your data. FireFox Focus is a web browser with more privacy protections than browsers like Chrome. There are many other steps you can take to protect your privacy. this preview of the Digital Defense Fund is worth checking out.
What if something goes wrong?
Plan C offers free emergency texting and phone services, including a hotline for doctors experienced in abortion treatment which will not ask for any credentials.
If you need urgent medical attention, seek medical help. This resource of Planned Parenthood, or this one from Women on Web, list some of the complications that should prompt you to consult. Remember that a medical abortion is indistinguishable from an unplanned miscarriage – so if you end up in hospital with complications, you don’t need to tell the doctors or anyone else in charge that you have took pills.
If you have a legal question, call Repro Legal Helpline at 844-868-2812. They provide free and confidential legal information. The Repro Legal Defense Fund provides bail and legal fees to anyone arrested for self-administering their abortion. National Pregnant Women Advocates can also offer pro bono support to anyone facing criminal charges for self-directed abortion.