Repro Legal Helpline Mobilizes Relaunch to Address Increased Calls about Self-Managed Abortion During COVID-19 Pandemic

As barriers to clinical abortion care multiply during the COVID-19 crisis, If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice has seen inquiries to its Repro Legal Helpline double during the first weeks of the pandemic. In response, the organization has accelerated the redesign and relaunch of the Helpline resource, which provides free legal information, and, when needed, legal advice and criminal defense for people who may be criminalized for self-managing their abortions. 

Sara L. Ainsworth, J.D., If/When/How Senior Legal & Policy Director

“While anti-abortion politicians have exploited this crisis by attempting to shutter clinics, we’re making the Repro Legal Helpline more accessible than ever to address people’s concerns about their legal rights and self-managed abortion,” said If/When/How Senior Legal & Policy Director Sara L. Ainsworth, J.D. “We’ve added new tools, transcreated the site into Spanish — with Mandarin coming soon — and redesigned the site to be more user-friendly.” 

Thousands of pregnant people may have already been turned away from clinics as anti-abortion officials play politics with people’s lives, forcing them to seek safe self-managed abortion options while navigating all the other the challenges this global pandemic poses. Today, more people need to self-manage their abortions at home — whether out of caution to avoid contracting or spreading coronavirus in public, caregiving responsibilities that require them to be home, personal preference or cultural custom, or the inability to pay for or travel to a clinic.

If/When/How’s Repro Legal Helpline is available for anyone who fears they may be or who has been criminalized for self-managing their abortion care —  especially now, when anti-abortion lawmakers may take advantage of heightened societal fear, relying on a racist, classist criminal legal system to punish people for their pregnancy outcomes.

Rebecca Wang, J.D., If/When/How Helpline Counsel

Everywhere in the United States, people have the constitutional right to abortion, even during this crisis. But five states — Arizona, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Delaware, and Nevada — still retain laws that criminalize self-managed abortions, putting people at risk of prosecution even though such laws are unconstitutional. Even in states that have no such laws, politically-motivated police and prosecutors may try to misuse other criminal laws to target people who self-manage abortion. 

Rebecca Wang, J.D., If/When/How Helpline Counsel, works on the front lines with Helpline inquiries, providing people with the information they need about the law and self-managed abortion. “Abortion access has always been dependent on the whims of politically-motivated government officials and an individual’s personal resources, or lack thereof,” said Wang. “That’s why we operate the Repro Legal Helpline and believe in it as a resource for people who may face criminalization as a result of self-managing their own abortion or for helping someone else do so.”

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