In January, Ohio health care providers launched a challenge to block a new abortion restriction enacted in December 2021, which threatens to shutter clinics across the state. Based on misinformation, the bill tries to establish medically unnecessary restrictions and narrow the range of health care facilities that can provide abortion care. This comes not long after Ohio lawmakers introduced a bill banning all abortions completely, and at the same time as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case affirming the legal right to abortion care. Emboldened by the looming end of Roe, extremists in states from South Carolina to South Dakota are cracking down on abortion access — half of all states in the country are certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe is overturned.
In the face of these kinds of restrictions and attacks, we’re seeing a nationwide crisis of abortion access, and self-managed abortion — when a person ends their own pregnancy on their own terms, outside of a traditional clinic setting — is an increasingly relevant option.
I self-managed my abortion a few years ago in college when my birth control failed and I got pregnant. I wasn’t in a position where I wanted to have a child — I wanted to continue my education, I wanted a chance to focus on exploring and becoming confident with my gender identity, and there was also no way I’d be able to afford raising a kid yet. So, I knew I needed an abortion.
But there were already so many restrictions on abortion access in Ohio at the time, including state-mandated “counseling” meant to discourage people from getting abortions, a 24-hour waiting period and restrictions on public funding for abortion care. These restrictions have the biggest impact on people like me who are young, queer, and/or have low incomes or disabilities, as well as others who face systemic inequities in health care, including people of color, rural and immigrant communities.
Ultimately, I couldn’t afford to go to a clinic for an abortion. At the time, I didn’t know that there were resources like abortion funds that exist to help people afford their preferred method of abortion care. This and other factors contributed to me wanting to end my pregnancy on my own terms.
I researched online for different ways to end a pregnancy, and I was able to induce a miscarriage using herbal remedies. I was relieved to be able to safely end the pregnancy, and this holistic method was best for me, but I also know that some people aren’t able to get the information they need to assess whether herbal methods could work for them because there are so few resources and so much stigma surrounding these methods. However, herbal remedies are not the only method of self-managed abortions. I am glad to hear that I could have also ordered abortion pills to take if I would have chosen that method. Abortion pills are FDA-approved, and can be used to safely and effectively end a pregnancy at home, but there are still many medically unnecessary restrictions governing access. At the time I sought my abortion, I was worried I could have faced legal consequences for seeking medication abortion — here in Ohio, anti-abortion extremists have misused abortion restrictions to try to prosecute and punish people who self-manage their abortions. Throughout the last two decades, dozens of people have been prosecuted for self-managing abortions, and several states have laws criminalizing self-managed abortion explicitly. The impact on vulnerable folks, including young people and communities of color, goes further and creates a chilling atmosphere of stigma and scrutiny.
All people, from Ohio to Texas, deserve the chance to make our own decisions about how to pursue abortion in a way that best fits our circumstances. Anyone who decides to end a pregnancy should be able to have their abortion in the way they want — with the control in our hands, surrounded by the people we love and with the support we want. Ohio’s new abortion restrictions threaten to criminalize even more people, including health care professionals, and it will be more important than ever that we protect people’s ability to choose for themselves how and when they want to get an abortion. As we fight against these bills, we must also fight against policies that criminalize self-managed abortion.
My self-managed abortion allowed me to get where I am today, with a fulfilling career advocating for reproductive justice, and a vibrant community of friends and loved ones. Everyone deserves that same chance, and anti-abortion politicians shouldn’t stand in our way. So, I urge each of you to join me in calling on your representatives to put a stop to abortion bans. All people should be able to get the health care they need without shame, unnecessary restrictions or fear of criminalization.
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