The future of Roe v. Wade, a woman’s right to an abortion, in most people’s minds, is hanging by a thread. A recent Supreme Court ruling on a Louisiana law, one that severely restricted abortion clinics, was decided on a 5-4 split. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the more liberal jurists in that decision. He might do so again should Roe v. Wade be challenged directly, rather than face social upheaval. But he is no friend to abortion rights advocates and future cases may give him an opportunity to see the law rendered meaningless without overturning it.
Because abortion rights advocates are braced for this possibility, supporters are looking for ways to help women to carry out self-induced abortions. Access to appropriate drugs is difficult because, in the United States, self-induced abortions are against the law. Foreign mail order suppliers avoid shipping to this country because the anti-abortion movement has deep pockets, and providers fear expensive lawsuits. (“Weapon of Choice,” Chelsea Conaboy, Mother Jones, March/April, 2019 pg. 9)
Mifepristone and misoprostol, the latter taken two days after the first, are the drugs deemed “generally safe” if taken within the first 9 weeks of gestation. (Ibid, pg. 8) At the moment, however, only a doctor can prescribe them in this country.
For some time, a woman in New York City defied the law. She supplied the drugs from her New York apartment at a minimal cost. Plan C, a group that circulates information about self-managed abortions, rated her supply reliable and the best among mail order sources. Unfortunately, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) shut down her operation, and she’s awaiting a court hearing.
In response, AidAccess.org opened another mail order service. Rebecca Gomperts, an Austrian physician, manages the website specifically for American woman. Her medical license, she hopes, will give cover to her and her clients. Already, she heads a nonprofit organization that supplies these drugs to women around the world. The FDA may not agree she has immunity, but Dr. Gomperts is taking the risk, believing the time has come for women to manage safe, self-induced abortions for themselves. (Ibid pg. 9.)