Anthony Kennedy's retirement from the Supreme Court has many worried about the future of Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that women have a constitutional right to abortion, and a return to the dark era that preceded it. Before Roe, women seeking an abortion often had to resort to back-alley abortionists or homegrown methods — all dangerous, even life-threatening. Understandably, this has people worried about one big question: if Roe v Wade is overturned what happens?
But some reproductive-rights advocates, while fighting to preserve Roe, point out that if abortion loses its federal protection, women will still have more resources for self-managed abortion than the pre-Roe generations. Namely: Medication abortion, the internet, and social media.
"We’re not in 1960, where we didn’t have access to medication abortion," Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), told Elite Daily on Tuesday. "There’s this narrative that in this new climate [where Roe could be overturned], people will resort to desperate measures, and we really push back on that narrative because we know that also the technology has changed, the medicine has changed, and we know that people are able to have an abortion with medication."
What is medication abortion?
Medication abortion refers to the taking of two hormone pills to end a pregnancy: mifepristone, which stops the production of progesterone (a hormone that enables pregnancy), and misoprostol, which induces a miscarriage. The process is safe and effective, and it doesn't require a doctor's supervision. But if Roe v Wade is overturned what happens? Would women have access to this?
Quite possibly. Some organizations like WomenOnWeb provide medication abortion to women in countries where access to abortion is restricted. A similar process could spring up in the U.S. Today in states where abortion is difficult to access, volunteers drive women to states where it's more accessible.
If Roe v Wade is overturned what happens? What other options do women have?
On June 29, Time reported on the flurry of activism and support that followed the news of Kennedy's retirement: "Women took to social media in droves to encourage others to get an IUD or stock up emergency contraception like Plan B. Others are donating to abortion funds and calling their senators. Some supporters are getting more creative — considering donating air miles so women can travel for abortions and looking into building or finding temporary housing for women in places where abortion will likely remain legal should Roe be overturned."
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Critically, reproductive-rights advocates have another tool in their arsenal that didn't exist pre-Roe: The internet, to marshal support for preserving legal abortion and to amplify what's at stake. It was public pressure that prevented a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act last year, and abortion-rights advocates will likely be at least as loud as the Senate hearings for Kennedy's replacement get underway.