It's been said time and again that limiting abortion access doesn't stop abortions, it stops safe ones. Research has shown that when women can't access the procedure, they will find a way to do it themselves.
Now, as reproductive health care is under serious threat from the Trump administration, one organization is hoping to offer guidance to women in the U.S. who are inducing their own abortions.
Women Help Women is a Netherlands-based organization that seeks to empower women who have already decided to terminate their pregnancies, so that they don't have to go through the "DIY" abortion process unsupported. Women Help Women delivers the abortion pill, misoprostol (often paired with mifepristone), and contraception to women via mail, and offers reproductive health counseling. But because misoprostol cannot be accessed without a doctor's permission in the U.S., Women Help Women has tailored a project specifically for American women.
The project, Self-managed Abortion, Safe and Supported (SASS), launched on Thursday, and will provide counseling and information to women who have no other option but to induce an abortion illegally ― a service that Women Help Women believes may be increasingly necessary in light of the 2016 presidential election and President Donald Trump's anti-abortion administration.
In his first act as president, Trump sent a strong anti-abortion message to the world when he reinstated the Reagan-era Global Gag rule, barring any funding to international health organizations that counsel women on family planning options that include abortion. Vice President Mike Pence has said that Roe v. Wade should be in the "ash heap of history," and has taken his anti-abortion agenda with him to Washington after his tenure as governor of Indiana, during which he "decimated access to abortion." And lawmakers across the country are doing their best to introduce legislation that limits women's access to abortion. Trump seems to have emboldened the anti-abortion movement, and women will be the ones who will suffer.
Women Help Women's U.S. spokeswoman, Susan Yanow, told the Guardian last week that women who want to terminate their pregnancies are going to terminate them regardless of whether they have support ― though ideally, this situation would never exist in the first place.
"Women in the U.S. have been and are using the pills without good guidance," she said. "If a woman is anxious and has the pills in her hand, and doesn't know what to do ... we can help her understand what to do. We can help her understand what signs to look for, and what's going on."
Yanow emphasized that the project does not exist to tell women to use the pills ― it exists to help women who've already made the decision.
"People are not being advised to use the pills," she said. "They're being advised if they've already decided to use the pills. What drives this project is the knowledge that women have been managing this on their own."