by Ellioté Long and Christina Boateng

International Safe Abortion Day 2020 saw a range of activities on abortion access, rights and activism including Twitter Chats, Facebook and Instagram Lives, many fact-based campaigns, testimonies and finally photo actions showing solidarity where people were not able to gather in public due to ongoing Covid-19 measures. The hashtag for this year’s theme was #IManageMyAbortion which was widely used alongside other hashtags: #InternationalSafeAbortionDay#SafeAbortionDay#MedicalAbortionNow and #28Sept.

Many public figures recognised 28 September via their social media accounts this year, ranging from UN and EU representatives to national ministers of state. Their statements affirmed that safe abortion is a human rights issue and essential healthcare, and highlighted public health concerns of unsafe abortion globally. As with every year, we saw a greater number of public figures and political representatives acknowledging International Safe Abortion Day – it was great to see such open statements from public figures on Twitter, in light of the anti-abortion stances in key advocacy spaces.

This year, Twitter chats were a popular alternative to in-person panel events, bringing a growing and diverse range of people together online. These opened many discussions up to more global participation and made events more accessible in many ways. The density of Twitter chats acted as a sort of ‘Twitter storm’, filling Twitter timelines with a wealth of information about self-managed abortion, telemedicine, abortion with pills and access to abortion in the context of Covid-19, in line with this year’s theme. These discussions highlighted the need for telemedicine and abortion with pills during the pandemic. Many discussed how to use this moment to build lasting advances in safe abortion access, beyond Covid-19. Another recurring theme was inequality of access and the fact that provision for abortion in the law does not necessarily mean access to safe abortion for all in practice.

Similarly, Instagram and Facebook Lives were a great way to make links globally and locally and create a space for real conversations. The Live format was a great opportunity for outreach. We saw that 28 September activities which were hosted on Instagram Live broke down the barriers between speakers and viewers, offering a chance for interaction with a wide audience.

Fact-based campaigns via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook were the most popular activity among Campaign members, particularly on Instagram. There were a range of approaches to this action, from myth-busting posts and infographics to interactive Q & A sessions through the question box feature on Instagram Stories. Many posts aimed to normalise abortion and demonstrate how common they are in reality. Many more reminded us that restrictive legislation on abortion does not reduce the number of abortions happening, it only increases the barriers to safe abortion. A lot of the posts focused on how safe and reliable abortion with pills, telemedicine and self-managed abortion are, provided with the right information and accessible aftercare if needed. Facts-focused format put pro-choice voices in control of the narrative. With so much misinformation circulating about self-managed abortion and abortion with pills, it is best to cut through with facts.

Testimonies/abortion experiences complemented fact-sharing activities. Personal abortion stories gave an insight into the realities behind abortion legislation. Platforming peoples’ lived experiences of abortion shows the diversity of barriers to safe abortion access and helps to dismantle abortion stigma. A reminder that the fight for safe abortion access goes beyond the legality of abortion and that it must fit into a broader struggle for reproductive justice.

Finallyonline photo actions restored some sense of togetherness on and around 28 September. For many, it was not possible to take to the streets in the same way as previous years, but we still made placards, found our green bandanas and pro-choice chants and took to social media. The solidarity photo actions that took place across the world were an important, galvanizing part of this year’s actions. Participatory photo actions generally aim to flood social media timelines with key demands, while also bringing followers and allies together. This makes them a great tool for outreach and awareness-raising as well as strengthening the bonds within global and local movements.

FULL REPORT available here.