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Unconstitutional Louisiana Law Stigmatizes Safe Self-Managed Abortion, Fails to Protect People Who End Their Own Pregnancies

[Featured image: Geoff Livingston via Flickr/Creative Commons 2.0]

The Supreme Court must understand the imminent legal threats against people who self-manage their abortions as justices consider the unconstitutional Louisiana law intended to shutter abortion providers, according to advocates, researchers, and health care providers who filed an amicus brief in June Medical Services v. Gee on Monday.

If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, along with Dr. Jamila Perritt, Ipas, Project SANA and Positive Women’s Network – USA, argues that Louisiana’s abortion restrictions place people at risk of criminalization by falsely portraying abortion as unsafe and illicit while pushing people to self-manage abortions as clinics across the state are shuttered. They point to arrests, in Louisiana and across the country, of people accused of ending their own pregnancies, and warn the court that the threat of arrest deters people from seeking medical help if they need it, undoing decades of progress in reproductive health care. 

Farah Diaz-Tello

“When anti-abortion politicians attempt to restrict the availability of clinical abortion care, some people will choose to self-manage their abortions, an option that can be physically safe but legally risky,” said If/When/How Senior Counsel Farah Diaz-Tello. “The specter of the ‘back-alley’ is now more historical fact than present concern due to the availability of abortion with pills, but the fear of prosecution is real.”

The availability of medication abortion has changed the landscape for self-managed abortion; now, it is the threat of being targeted by police and prosecutors that poses the biggest risk to people who self-manage their abortions, especially for women of color and low-income women. At least 21 people across the country have been arrested for self-managing an abortion or supporting someone who self-managed an abortion; hundreds more — including in Louisiana — have been arrested for experiencing miscarriages. 

“People who prefer clinical abortion care must be able to access it, and those who choose self-managed abortion — or who are forced to rely on it when clinics close — must not be criminalized,” said Diaz-Tello. “Whatever someone’s reason for ending a pregnancy, the law should protect them, not punish them.” 

Louisiana’s unconstitutional Act 620 relies on the faulty premise that all abortion is unsafe, fueling a false narrative that creates a culture of fear, silence, and stigma both for people who seek clinical care and who self-manage. The full brief is available online here. Special thanks to the law firm Perkins Coie LLP, our co-counsel on the brief.

To learn more about the legal landscape of self-managed abortion, read our Roe’s Unfinished Promise report and our 2019 Roe’s Unfinished Promise update. Anyone who has questions about their legal rights and self-managed abortion is encouraged to reach out to If/When/How’s Repro Legal Helpline.

If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice transforms the law and policy landscape through advocacy, support, and organizing so all people have the power to determine if, when, and how to define, create, and sustain families with dignity and to actualize sexual and reproductive wellbeing on their own terms.

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