by Women Help Women, 4 August 2017
Although self-management of medical abortion presents enormous potential for the empowerment of women, the experience of individual women in countries where abortion is legally restricted often remains deeply stigmatized, despite the availability of safe abortion pills. It builds on other forms of discrimination and structural injustices. Ultimately, abortion stigma serves to marginalize an essential medical process, discredit those who would provide or procure it, and undermine those who advocate for its legality and accessibility.
A woman who manages her own abortion is committing a political act by refusing to submit to various oppressive systems, whether intending to or not. By taking control into her own hands, she is rejecting systems of law, local medical practice, societal norms, religious norms and sometimes deeply held personal beliefs.
False messages intended to frighten women off
> The pills are misused by women and cannot be self-managed.
> No woman should ever do this by herself because she will likely die or become infertile.
> This process should never be made so easy.
WHW works steadily to empower, destigmatize and provide support in each and every message and action. Any intervention on behalf of independent use in restrictive settings must engage fully in conversation. Each person deserves to feel heard, understood and respected. Stigma can feel overwhelming but can be addressed brick-by-brick in small but meaningful written exchanges. We emphasize that abortion is a common experience, and they are not alone. We offer reliable information on medical, legal and logistical aspects of accessing and safely taking abortion medicines, sharing research data, and the experiences of others. We talk about how safe self-management of abortion medicines is, but we encourage women to be close to the hospital if additional care is needed. After desperation, fear, shame and secrecy, women express relief and astonishment after the abortion is over, because they experienced no complications, and they feel healthy both physically and emotionally.