Some women who find themselves in states where abortion is illegal are turning to unorthodox methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies. These women are “self-managing” their abortions, which entails researching the information necessary to perform the procedure online and procuring the necessary medications without the assistance of a clinic or a medical professional.
At first appearance, the method may bring to mind the times before Roe v. Wade, when women were far too often compelled to abort an undesired pregnancy by resorting to potentially harmful means. However, the introduction of medication abortion, which is achieved via the use of medications as opposed to in-office procedures, has revolutionised reproductive care and presents a serious challenge to the anti-abortion legislation that is now in place.
Even before the decision of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, pharmaceutical abortions made up more than half of all abortions performed in the United States. During the epidemic, federal officials made access to the tablets even more convenient by eliminating the need for patients to have an in-person visit and instead permitting a virtual appointment to serve as a prerequisite for receiving the medication by mail.
However, many states have never permitted abortions to be performed through telemedicine, and new laws that restrict abortion apply to all methods of the operation, including the use of drugs. Therefore, women in regions of the nation that are becoming more restricted are obtaining the tablets by any means possible, the majority of the time through the use of the internet despite governmental bans.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, an organisation that does research on and advocates for access to abortions, there are no accurate estimates of the number of women who terminate their pregnancies with drugs on their own.
According to a database that is kept by The New York Times, the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has resulted in at least ten states passing legislation that criminalises abortion. On Tuesday, voters in Kansas decided against supporting a ballot initiative that would have eliminated safeguards for abortion rights from the state constitution.
However, it is anticipated that at least half of the states in the United States would impose some kind of restriction, and as a result, advocates on all sides of the abortion debate are preparing for an increase in the number of abortions that are self-managed.
Abortion opponents argue that medically assisted terminations, particularly those performed without a doctor present, carry a higher risk of complications than is often acknowledged. They highlight that the treatment should not be attempted beyond the tenth week of gestation and that it should not be performed without a visit to the attending physician since it is not always feasible to date a pregnancy precisely.
They also claim that other medical concerns, such as ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilised egg implants elsewhere other than in the uterus, may be overlooked.
This is the narrative that pro-choice physicians tell, but it is not the one that is generally accepted. According to proponents of self-management, there is not much of a difference.
Dr. Beverly Winikoff, the founder of Gynuity Health Projects and the person responsible for the majority of the research on medication abortion that led to its approval in the United States more than 20 years ago, stated that “it’s quite safe and effective based on studies we’ve done, national data provided by the states and the Guttmacher Institute, and the experience of other countries.” Dr. Winikoff was one of the researchers who was responsible for the approval of medication abortion in the United States.
Mifepristone, which terminates the pregnancy by inhibiting the action of a hormone known as progesterone, is often taken first, followed a day or two later by misoprostol, which triggers the uterus to begin contracting. This is the standard method for performing an abortion.
According to statistics, more than half a million women in the United States will have abortions induced by medicine in 2020, and less than half of one percent of these women will encounter major problems. According to the findings of a study that was conducted in 2013 on hundreds of trials that included tens of thousands of patients, less than 0.4 percent of individuals required medical treatments such as hospitalisation or blood transfusions.