Repro Legal Helpline is a mobile hotline run by If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice that provides free legal advice and criminal defense to women who may be criminalized for self-managing their abortions—a practice on the rise in the U.S.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the helpline has seen a doubling of incoming calls inquiring for advice on a description of their legal rights.
In response to this surge, the organization has directed a relaunch of the helpline to better accommodate the increasing number of individuals reaching out for help during this time.
“While anti-abortion politicians have exploited this crisis by attempting to shutter clinics, we’re making the Repro Legal Helpline more accessible than ever to address people’s concerns about their legal rights and self-managed abortion,” said If/When/How senior legal and policy director Sara L. Ainsworth, J.D. in a statement.
Included in the redesign is a translation of the website into Spanish, with Mandarin on the way, and added tools that have created a more user-friendly site. The helpline is available to all individuals seeking needed information about the law and self-managed abortions.
In the midst of the national health crisis, many women have been denied access to clinics due to anti-abortion laws put in place by slanted officials, prompting many to opt to self-manage their abortions.
“Thousands of pregnant people may have already been turned away from clinics as anti-abortion officials play politics with people’s lives, forcing them to seek safe self-managed abortion options while navigating all the other the challenges this global pandemic poses,” If/When/How wrote in a press release.”
“Today, more people need to self-manage their abortions at home—whether out of caution to avoid contracting or spreading coronavirus in public, caregiving responsibilities that require them to be home, personal preference or cultural custom or the inability to pay for or travel to a clinic.”
Ms.’s Carrie Baker reported on the legality of self-managed abortion in early April:
“Only a handful of states make it a crime to have a self-induced abortion,” Lynn Paltrow of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women told Ms. “That being said, even in the overwhelming majority of states where it is not a crime to self-induce an abortion, there are all sorts of laws that that could in theory be applied to people who obtain medications outside of approved medical settings.”
The states that have explicit criminal prohibitions of self-managed abortions are Arizona, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Delaware and Nevada. New York repealed their criminal prohibition on self-managed abortion in 2019.
And while thirty-eight states have feticide laws that equate pregnancy termination with murder, most explicitly exclude pregnant women from criminal penalties.
But some extreme, politically-motivated prosecutors are stretching the law in order to punish women who end their own pregnancies—either using feticide laws or other generally applicable laws such as child neglect, practicing medicine on oneself, or possession of a dangerous substance.
If/When/How’s helpline number is: 844-868-2812.
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