The significance of September 28th for reproductive rights is huge. It marks not only the anniversary of the abortion pill in the U.S. but also International Safe Abortion Day.
First, let’s take a look at some history:
In 1990, September 28th was declared an international day of action for the decriminalization of abortion by the Campaña 28 Septiembre, a regional network of activist groups in Latin America and the Caribbean who have been organizing in support of safe abortion on this date in the region ever since.
In 2000, the drug mifepristone was approved for use in the US by the FDA on September 28th. In case you didn’t know, the abortion pill, often referred to as medical abortion or medication abortion, is actually a combination of two kinds of pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) that are taken in sequence.
In 2011, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, an international organization that advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide, declared the 28th of September as an international day and began to motivate activities in other regions.
Since then, the word has spread. September 28th has become an internationally recognized day for grassroots activism in support of safe abortion. It engages advocates from around the world in a united call to countries and health services to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to safe abortion.
Fast forward to present day 2020:
The abortion pill is a safe, effective, FDA-approved, non-invasive option for ending an early pregnancy. Yet 20 years since its approval in the US, medication abortion still remains out of reach for many people across the country due to outdated and unnecessary restrictions. Providers are forced to jump through hoops to dispense the abortion pill and patients may not be able to obtain them from their own doctor. This can put safe abortion care out of reach for those in rural areas or people struggling to make ends meet.
Also, despite 20 years of safe use, 18 states require the prescribing doctor to be physically present when medication abortion care is given to the patient. This serves no public health benefit, especially in the middle of a global pandemic that limits travel.
The serious effects of COVID-19 have put the need for access to safe abortion into sharp relief and reiterated how necessary it is to ensure that abortion is treated as essential health care. The pandemic has also shown us how much people struggle to get health care, especially those who have low incomes, live in rural areas, are people of color, or are undocumented.
During the pandemic, the FDA has made it easier for patients to get medical care without unnecessary trips to the doctor. There is no reason to treat patients seeking abortion care differently. But when it comes to those needing early abortion care, the administration insists on jeopardizing patients’ safety for no medical reason.
For over a year, carafem has helped hundreds of people have a safe and legal abortion via telemedicine with secure video consultations and discreet mailing. This method has not only proven to be safe and effective but we’ve also saved several clients a great deal of time and anxiety in trying to travel to a clinic to find an abortion — especially if they live in one of the majority of US counties with no abortion provider.
The scientific and public health consensus — including by the FDA — is that unnecessary in-person visits for medical care should be avoided during the pandemic. There is no reason to treat patients seeking abortion care differently.
Why is this important?
While abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973, and legal for generations in most other developed countries, people with uteruses are still suffering and dying from complications of unsafe abortion around the world. Deaths from unsafe abortion worldwide are estimated at 68,000 each year.
It is clear and historically proven that making abortion a criminalized act does nothing to decrease the need for abortion. It just makes abortion care more costly and less available which drives those who seek it to desperate and unsafe actions. Where you live and how much money you make shouldn’t determine the health care you get.
So today, we’re celebrating 20 years of medication abortion care. What AREN’T we celebrating? That 20 years since its approval, the abortion pill is still heavily restricted.
Now is the time to leave outdated restrictions in history.