The past few weeks have been a terrifying time for the American reproductive rights movement, as state after state has passed legislation banning all but the earliest possible abortions — and, in the case of Alabama, banning the procedure outright. Although none of the bans have gone into effect yet, and there’s a good chance at least a few if not all will be overturned or enjoined by the courts, the wave of anti-abortion legislation nevertheless feels like a terrifying omen of things to come.
To many in the abortion-rights camp, it’s clear that it’s only a matter of time until a significant portion of the country is thrust back to the pre-Roe v. Wade era, one where people in need of abortions are forced to go underground. And no matter what happens in the courts and the legislatures, recent technological advancements in medicine have made it unlikely that the underground abortion scene will bear any resemblance to the back alleys of decades past.
The most significant change is the development of mifepristone and misoprostol, two medications that work together to safely and effectively terminate a pregnancy — even when a person takes the pills on their own, without the supervision of a doctor. (Misoprostol, which is more widely available than mifepristone, can also be used alone, though it’s less effective than the two medications in combination.) In combination with telemedicine, these pills offer a fallback plan, one where an illegal abortion can be safely administered in the privacy of one’s home with medication ordered off the internet. Although the FDA has only approved mifepristone for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, self-managed abortion advocates argue that misoprostol pills can be used to safely terminate pregnancy up to 12, and potentially even 20 weeks in.
There are already sites that provide access to abortion pills, as well as detailed instructions on how to safely induce an abortion at home. Advocacy and education site Plan C maintains a report card that rates the available options on price, product quality, and speed of delivery (a key factor for people looking to induce an abortion). Plan C’s…