Advocates weigh in on how to guide women who receive abortion pills: shots

Julie Edwards, a patient advocacy program manager with planned parents in Tennessee and North Mississippi, had a self-administered abortion as a teenager and said they would become more common and be safer.

Rachel Lacovon / WPLN


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Julie Edwards, a patient advocacy program manager with planned parents in Tennessee and North Mississippi, had a self-administered abortion as a teenager and said they would become more common and be safer.

Rachel Lacovon / WPLN

At a rally in Nashville, planned parenthood organizer Julie Edwards looked at some “back alley abortion” images of symptoms, including a bloody coat hanger. But, as Edwards took to the streets in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the right to abortion, he told the crowd that it was not like the day before. Rowe vs. Wade.

About a decade ago, Edwards was a teenager and received medication from some older friends. Edwards said it could be the new norm in an abortion-prohibited state like Tennessee.

“I had a self-administered abortion standing in front of you, getting abortion pills from people in my community. And I’m safe,” Edwards told Cheers. “It’s going to take us all to keep each other’s privacy, to hold each other’s hands, to keep each other safe.”

Medications are now available for first trimester abortions. And it has become the primary means of abortion.

This method contains two prescription drugs that have been on the market ever since Rowe The decision was made in 1973. Mifepristone is taken first. These are abortion drugs that are fairly expensive and highly regulated, usually taken at a doctor’s office or health clinic. After a day or two, the patient takes misoprostol, which is much more widely available and can act on its own to cause miscarriage. The drug was developed in the 1970s to treat ulcers but has several other off-label uses in addition to abortion, such as relieving arthritis. It is even prescribed for animals, so veterinary supply stores carry drugs. Mesoprostol is even sold over-the-counter in Mexico.

“It’s really based on what anyone can get. And in a self-administered context, the only way to get mifepristone plus misoprostol via the internet is to wait for delivery,” said Susan Yano, a spokeswoman for Women Help, a nonprofit organization across four continents. Which works to increase access to abortion.

International agencies ship both drugs worldwide – but not in the United States because laws vary greatly from state to state. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have already started pulling posts offering to send these drugs in the mail. Many states that have now banned abortion have recently strengthened their laws on mail-order abortion drugs.

“We still have the right to share information,” Yano said. “People use the internet. People use their phones. People will find ways to get these pills.”

Using safe abortion pills

But it’s more than just finding drugs, which is why Yano’s company has detailed guidelines on how to use them safely. And she provides training for local reproductive rights groups like no other.

The Linsee Bee of Montana-based self-guided abortion began making video tutorials late last year and published them on YouTube, offering ways to make the process more sacred by using misoprostol alone and building an altar, burning incense and burning candles. . She even provides post-abortion yoga instruction.

Multiple rounds are required with a single misoprostol. Nausea is common. And the drug induces cramping and bleeding which can be worrisome for those who are not ready.

Even some OB-GYNs quietly support self-administered abortion.

“I’m more concerned about people who can’t go to one of these sources and they’re so desperate that they take matters into their own hands,” said Dr. Nicki Jite, OB-GYN at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

She said clinical counseling is ideal before taking the pill combo. For example, some patients are anemic and may have enough bleeding in need of emergency care. And some don’t do well with just pain and lots of blood.

“Not every patient is a good candidate to have an abortion at home,” she said.

But at the moment, Zite is not able to offer that advice. In Tennessee, she will now be at risk of a felony and jail time under a six-week ban in effect, and an all-out abortion will be banned for effective August. And it’s not clear how far law enforcement is willing to go.

References to coat hangers have been used in protest of the decision to reverse Rowe vs. Wade. Abortion rights activists say “self-administered abortion” is much safer today because of drugs – but women still need guidance.

Caroline Egars / WPLN


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References to coat hangers have been used in protest of the decision to reverse Rowe vs. Wade. Abortion rights activists say “self-administered abortion” is much safer today because of drugs – but women still need guidance.

Caroline Egars / WPLN

Tennessee law specifically exempts a pregnant woman from trial. But a motivated prosecutor could find a way to press charges against a self-administered abortion, said Nashville Criminal Defense Attorney David Robin.

“I mean, it’s full of danger,” Rabin said. “I would strongly recommend getting a drug against a woman using such quote-quote underground methods.”

He said it was better to have a legal abortion in another state. But Tennessee abortion rights activists say they know travel will be difficult for many. And even for those who can, a self-managed abortion may be more convenient. To some extent, however, reproductive rights groups are willing to help navigate the legal gray area.

Risk assessment

Healthy & Free Tennessee, an organization working to promote sexual health and reproductive freedom, has organized a number of training sessions through Women Help Women in recent weeks. Policy director Nina Gurak says their biggest concern is not health complications – it’s a legal risk.

“We recommend that if someone self-manages an abortion that they have a supporter or friend. That supporter or friend may be at greater legal risk than the actual person conducting the abortion themselves,” he said. “And then you have to decide for yourself – is this something I feel comfortable with? Is it something I don’t feel comfortable with?”

State agencies, including abortion bans, have their own risk of assessment. They feel confident that the First Amendment protects the sharing of medical information approved by the World Health Organization.

But abortion rights advocates are divided between raising awareness and becoming the target of anti-abortion lawmakers – who are no longer limited. Rowe vs. Wade.

“We are certainly concerned about the criminalization of abortion or self-administered abortion and abortion pills.” “We want to balance the information the community needs with what they need to decide for themselves.”

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