Abortion on Our Own Terms: ‘Supreme Court Justices Can’t Put Abortion Pills Back in the Bottle’

“What if anyone who needs to end a pregnancy could do so with safe, effective medication available without a prescription, the same way we already get other medications?” asks the Abortion on Our Own Terms Campaign. “That future is within reach.” 

abortion-pills-abortion-on-our-own-terms-supreme-court
Abortion On Our Own Terms activists, including Erin Matson (second from right) at the March 14 Bans Off Our Bodies Protest in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Erin Matson)

In response to the Supreme Court’s imminent overturning of Roe v. Wade, a coalition of over 70 reproductive health, rights and justice organizations have created a new campaign, Abortion on Our Own Terms, to educate the public about the safety and effectiveness of self-managed abortion using medications.

“The Abortion on Our Own Terms campaign is an amazing, affirmative, defiant campaign, which is just what this horrible moment for abortion rights and access in this country needs,” said Erin Matson, co-founder and executive director of Reproaction and a steering committee member of the Abortion on Our Own Terms coalition.

“There are a variety of methods that folks may use to self-manage abortion. We provide information on abortion pills because they are such an amazing technical advance—really a game changer,” said Matson. “These Supreme Court justices can’t put abortion pills back in the bottle.”

Medication abortion uses two FDA-approved oral medications to end a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone interrupts the flow of the hormone progesterone that sustains the pregnancy, and misoprostol causes contractions to expel the contents of the uterus. You can use these pills in combination or use misoprostol alone.

The FDA has approved a regimen of one mifepristone pill and four misoprostol pills through 10 weeks of pregnancy (counting from the first day of your last period). The World Health Organization has approved this regimen through 12 weeks. Abortion pills are effective later in pregnancy under a different regimen.

“We are pill-forward and method-inclusive,” said Matson. “That means we put a lot of emphasis on abortion pills, but we also recognize that there are other methods that people may be using to end pregnancies outside the medical system and we sure as heck don’t want them stigmatized or, of course, not criminalized.”

Research shows that abortion pills are highly effective—with an over 95 percent success rate—and they are extremely safe. Serious adverse events occur in less than one-third of one percent of medication abortions.

“Abortion pills are safe and effective. It’s absolutely inane that they’re so hard to get right now,” said Matson. “You can’t even get them from your pharmacist. You actually have to go to a provider. The complication rate is extraordinarily low—lower than Tylenol. Why can I buy Tylenol at the store, but I have to go through all these hoops to get abortion pills? It’s ridiculous.”

On their website, Abortion on Our Own Terms explains what self-managed abortion is, provides educational resources, promotes their partner organizations and gives several ways to get involved and take action. They condense key information about medication abortion and self-managed abortion into bite-sized, easily-understandable forms, including readymade stickers, GIFs, short informational videos and infographics for supporters to download and share.

The complication rate is extraordinarily low—lower than Tylenol. Why can I buy Tylenol at the store, but I have to go through all these hoops to get abortion pills? It’s ridiculous.

Erin Matson
abortion-pills-abortion-on-our-own-terms-supreme-court
(Abortion On Our Own Terms)

One of the coalition members, Plan C, has a comprehensive, state-by-state guide to finding abortion pills, with information on U.S.-based telehealth abortion providers as well as options for people in states that restrict abortion pills. Austria-based telehealth abortion provider Aid Access serves people in all 50 states. Plan C also lists vetted online pharmacies where people can order pills directly.

Another coalition member, If/When/How, runs the Repro Legal Helpline, which provides free and confidential legal advice that can help people better understand the laws and legal risk they may face in self-managing abortion. Detailed instructions for how to take abortion pills are available in 27 languages and the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline has medical professionals available for free consultations between 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. in all continental U.S. time zones to answer medical questions related to using abortion pills.

“The primary goal of this campaign is to get people thinking more broadly about abortion,” said Matson. “I want to be very clear that we support in-clinic access to abortion. We want to see clinical care available in every community where people live all over the country. But self-managed abortion is also a really great option, even when we have access to in-clinic care.”

Abortion on Our Own Terms envisions a world where abortion pills are much more accessible.

“Our primary focus is on education and culture change. Our long-range vision includes abortion pills on the shelf, abortion pills for free on college campuses, abortion pills in vending machines. I hope that we get to a point where people can keep abortion pills in their medicine cabinet in case they need them. We’ve got to build cultural acceptance and get out the word about how to self-manage abortion with pills because folks are looking for the information and states are failing to allow clinic-based access.”

We want to see clinical care available in every community where people live all over the country. But self-managed abortion is also a really great option, even when we have access to in-clinic care.

Erin Matson

The number of people seeking information about abortion pills has recently surged, said Matson, noting new visitors deluged Reproaction’s website the day after Alito’s leaked draft opinion.

If the Court overturns Roe, abortion bans will go into effect in 22 states, including near-total bans in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Utah and Oklahoma and six-week bans in 10 states. Another four states are likely to implement abortion bans soon after.

“We are defiant that no matter what these bigoted justices do to abortion access under the law, we know that people will continue to take abortion into their own hands,” said Matson.

abortion-pills-abortion-on-our-own-terms-supreme-court

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

Up next:

About and

Carrie N. Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is the Sylvia Dlugasch Bauman professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. She is a contributing editor at Ms. magazine. You can contact Dr. Baker at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @CarrieNBaker.
Anya Rozario is a rising sophomore at Pomona College.