If abortion is illegal or inaccessible where you live, you usually have two options: travel to a state that protects the procedure, or self-administer an abortion using drugs at home.
People have been accessing safe care both ways for years. According to the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Policy Evaluation Plan, thousands of Texas have received abortions outside the state, following the Texas six-week ban in September 2021. And by 2020, more than half of all abortions in the US will be drug abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
“It’s going to be a broader application that we can see what’s already happening to many people,” Diaz-Tello said.
If you need help to cover the cost of traveling out of state for care, your local abortion fund can finance childcare, airfare, housing, gas and other expenses, said Emma Hernandez, a nonprofit spokeswoman for Reproductive Justice. .
“They can take you to your appointment, pick you up from the airport, and provide you with a place to stay depending on your needs and what’s available locally,” Hernandez said.
Is it safe to travel on state lines for abortion?
Yes. People have traveled across state lines – and across the country – to get an abortion for decades. Among anti-abortion legislators, people have spoken of trying to stop their states from seeking care or to punish them when they return, but there are currently no laws permitting them to do so in the books.
“We have to see what states pass those kinds of laws and how they are actually implemented – they are certainly challenging,” said Aziza Ahmad, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine.
Usually, if someone commits a crime in one state and goes to another state, the second state is expected to hand the person over to the jurisdiction of the offense, Ahmed said. But it is unclear whether the state could prosecute anyone who considers it a crime in another jurisdiction where the same statute is legal.
“We’re not sure how it’s going to play out,” Ahmed said.
Anti-abortion lawmakers will certainly seek to prosecute people who travel for abortion care, even if it is unclear whether they have the legal authority to do so, he said.
“States have already proven themselves to be extremely cruel and indifferent to people’s lives,” Ahmed said. “I think they’re trying to put people on trial and then they are just waiting for the challenge and … to ruin people’s lives while they’re doing it to intimidate everyone else.”
Meanwhile, states that remain abortion legal are working to increase coverage and provide more assistance to people traveling there for care. In May, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed into law a law banning state officials and health care providers from filing lawsuits against patients traveling to Connecticut for a procedure. Other states, such as California and New York, are considering similar legislation, among other measures.
What is a drug abortion and how can I get the pills?
Drug abortion is a nonsurgical procedure that takes a combination of prescription medications such as mifepristone and misoprostol to terminate pregnancy for up to 11 weeks. Myofepristone blocks progesterone, a hormone that is necessary for pregnancy to continue, and then misoprostol causes the uterus to expel its contents.
This method has been tested extensively, has a high success rate, and is responsible for very few cases of hospitalization. Drugs are approved by the FDA, which allows healthcare providers to administer the pills individually or send them to patients by mail, but several states have adopted laws that restrict how drugs are distributed (more on that later).
Plan C provides state-by-state information on how to access a drug abortion – and the potential legal risks you may face – where you live. Organizations such as abortion, help access and Hey Jane offer pills by mail on demand. The Abortion and Abortion Hotline helps people navigate how to use their own medications. The Repro Legal Helpline, which can be reached by phone at 844-868-2812 or online at reprolegalhelpline.org, is a resource for people seeking safe and confidential legal guidance on how to self-manage abortion.
“If people can’t travel, for the vast majority of people living in these states, this is a really important step for them to get into,” Shaw said.
Is it legal to use a drug abortion?
Diaz-Tello said the answer to this question is a little more complicated. While only three states – Oklahoma, South Carolina and Nevada – currently have laws that criminalize self-administered abortion, many more have adopted laws that restrict access to drug abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 19 states prohibit the use of telemedicine to prescribe drug abortions, and 32 states require doctors to offer pills as doctors instead of nurse practitioners or other licensed medical professionals.
While anti-abortion lawmakers and advocates say the restrictions on abortion are not intended to criminalize a pregnant person, people have been prosecuted for terminating their own pregnancies. In April, a 26-year-old Texas woman was arrested and charged with murder for engaging in “self-induced abortion.” She was later released, and prosecutors acknowledged that she had not violated any laws.
“If there is a law to prosecute pregnant women or if it is gray enough, then you are likely to violate the law by using a drug abortion,” Ahmad said. “As we’ve all seen in Texas, they’ve already tried to do that.”
But given that drug abortion is FDA-approved, it is still unclear whether states’ restrictions on access are legal, experts said.
“Unfortunately, I think this is one of the things that we can’t really know the answer to as long as there is a legal challenge,” Diaz-Tello said.
How can I defend myself against legal action?
One important thing to be aware of is that healthcare providers may not be able to tell if you have an abortion or drug-induced abortion when taking the pills orally, so experts do not need to share that information with hospital staff. An incident where you need to seek medical attention.
“There is no difference between induced abortion and spontaneous occurrence, and there is no difference in the care they seek,” Diaz-Tello said. “The pills themselves are not practically relevant.”
However, when taken intravaginally, pills can leave a residue, according to Dr. Rochester, an obstetrician and gynecologist who provides abortion care in Texas. Moyedi said it is wrong to tell people that the drug should only be used orally, that taking intravaginally may reduce some of the side effects of medications such as diarrhea and is good for people with certain medical conditions. Still, he admitted that people who enter pills “in a sneaky fashion” should take them orally for that reason.
“I don’t want to live in a country where I have to tell patients to lie to their healthcare providers to be safe,” Moayedi said. “But people are saying about you.… We have to be careful.
Diaz-Tello said that in order to protect yourself from criminalization, you usually have to be careful about who you share personal health information with.
Repro Legal Helpline recommends using VPN to hide your Internet search activity and also encrypted messaging services such as Signal to protect your private conversations. When people are prosecuted for self-administering an abortion, law enforcement can gain access to their phones and computers and use the information gathered from those devices.
“This is not a typical case for self-administered abortion laws,” Diaz-Tello said. “This type of law enforcement’s access to people’s private data is relatively common.”