As abortion rights have come under increasing attack in the United States, commentators have held up self-administered abortion pills as a backup plan for a post-Roe world. They point to the millions of pregnant women worldwide who are using pills to self-manage abortion, citing them as an example of what reproductive health care might look like should in-clinic abortions be made illegal.
There’s no question that abortion pills are revolutionary. In the hands of women, the pills have transformed self-induced abortion from a once-dangerous endeavor into a safe procedure. Abortion help lines have walked women through the process of self-management, sometimes remotely or even over the internet. Where abortion is illegal, black market access to the drugs has resulted in significant decreases in complications and deaths.
Yet, even with these major advances, the idea that “coat-hanger abortions” are a thing of the past is misguided. The International Women’s Health Coalition welcomes do-it-yourself abortion pills as the extremely safe, effective and empowering technology they are. But we worry about the many women who will be left behind unless legal restrictions are removed, funding for abortion services is provided and barriers to access are eliminated.