Forty-five years ago, doctors were at the forefront of efforts to decriminalize abortion, which culminated in the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade. And today, doctors are again in the vanguard speaking out against abortion criminalization of a more recent vintage: that of the pregnant woman herself.
While people have been ending their own pregnancies throughout the world since the dawn of time, it is only recently that social scientists have begun studying the prevalence of this practice in the United States. Evidence shows that people are ending pregnancies outside of clinical settings using abortion pills, herbs and other methods for a variety of reasons. And the need for options outside of clinics is expected to continue — if not grow — in the coming years as anti-abortion zealots in public office make good on their campaign promises to enact and enforce unnecessary and onerous restrictions on clinical abortion care designed to make abortion even more scarce and unaffordable.
Even people for whom access and cost are not barriers may opt for self-managed abortion. Reasons range from concerns regarding privacy and security, as anti-abortion protesters outside of clinics and health centers become increasingly aggressive, to a desire by the individual to choose the scheduling, setting, companion and method of abortion that is truly right for them. For others, it may be a link to a spiritual practice or heritage of community-based care. Whatever their reasons, for increasing swaths of the population, self-managed abortion is either their first preference or least-worst option.
If people have access to accurate information, reliable methods like abortion pills, and confidential, backup medical care in the rare event of a complication, self-managed…