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August 23, 2022

What To Do If Abortion Is Banned In Your State And You Need Help

No matter where you live, you have options.
Published on
August 23, 2022
Updated on
— What's changed?
Medically Reviewed by
6 minute read

If you’re in a state that restricts or bans abortion access, care, or support, we compiled a list of considerations and options to explore. While these options are available as of this writing, August 2022, the news around Roe v. Wade is continuing to develop as individual states vote on measures that will impact abortion access (1) . Understanding and learning about your choices, even if those choices have been limited, is an important step toward taking control of your bodily autonomy. 

4 things to consider if your state bans abortions 

If you live in a state that bans, or is planning to ban, abortion access, care, and support, it’s important to fully understand your situation, what your options are, and your ability to access resources and information. To help guide you, whether or not you need assistance now or in the future, here are four things to consider. 

1. Learn your state’s abortion laws. 

Even if you’re certain of your state’s policies, it’s important to check (and then double check) your state’s up-to-date abortion laws, especially since post-Roe legislation is rapidly changing (2). Even if you live in a state with anti-abortion laws, you might find orders in place that temporarily block the enactment of abortion bans. Or, you might find that your state offers abortion access within a timeframe that currently meets your needs. When you know your state’s abortion laws, you can best assess your options and next steps (2). 

2. Understand your timeline.

Knowing your pregnancy timeline can help you understand your options better (i.e. abortion medication and surgical abortion) (3). There are online tools that can help — all you have to do is input the month and day of your last menstrual period. Once you know how long you’ve been pregnant, you can explore states that allow abortion within your timeframe. For example, if you need to get an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, you may assess if you can travel to one of six states that allow late-term abortions. But if you need abortion access at seven weeks, you have more options, including medication that can induce abortion.

3. Consider your financial and logistical needs.

If you choose to travel across state lines to access clinician-supported and surgical abortion, there are expenses and logistics to keep in mind. Depending on your financial situation, you might need help paying for transportation, childcare, housing, and other travel-related needs. There are some support organizations that offer assistance with abortion expenses. The National Network of Abortion Funds can connect you with organizations that will support your financial and logistical needs (4, 5). 

4. Be aware of potential legal risks.

As of now, no matter where you live, you can legally travel across state lines and access both surgical and medication abortion. Mailing abortion pills to states with abortion bans is technically illegal, but it’s likely you won’t be criminalized or charged if you choose to go down that route (6). Given that legislation may change, it’s important to limit your digital footprint, as law enforcement may target people based on digital history. If you’d like digital security tips, the Electronic Frontier Foundation offers tools and resources on privacy protection. For any other legal abortion-related questions, organizations like Repro Legal Hotline and Center for Reproductive Rights can provide more information on your abortion rights . 

Know your safer sex options to prevent pregnancy

If you don’t currently need abortion assistance, but want information on how to prevent pregnancy to limit chances for abortion in the future, know your safer sex options. Birth control pills, along with other contraceptive methods, are currently legal in all 50 states. Emergency contraception or Plan B is also legal for preventing pregnancy soon after sex. Choosing the right birth control depends on a number of factors such as health needs, lifestyle, financial cost, accessibility, and effectiveness. Here are some (not all) options for birth control (7). 

What to do if you’re refused birth control at your local pharmacy

In more than a dozen states, there have been reports of pharmacists refusing to dispense methods of contraception, including birth control pills and emergency contraception (Plan B). In July 2022, Reuters reported that legislation passed saying U.S. pharmacies must fill reproductive health prescriptions (8). It’s important to know your rights. Still, if you run into issues, or a pharmacist claims they do not have to fill your prescription for “personal beliefs,” there are things you can do.
  • Report the incident to the pharmacy board.
  • Contact the pharmacy’s headquarters and inform them of the issue.
  • Contact the Office for Civil Rights if you feel discriminated against by the pharmacist. For example, if the pharmacy sells condoms, but won’t permit you to fill a birth control prescription, there may be a case for gender-based discrimination.
  • Use a different form of birth control until you are able to fill your prescription
  • Try going to a different nearby pharmacy

5 options if you need an abortion and live in a trigger ban state 

If you can afford to travel..

For those with the means to travel, there are a few options available to seek abortion access. 

1. Travel across states lines to access surgical abortion. 

If you live in a place that bans abortions, traveling to a nearby state with abortion access can be a viable option. Before you travel, make sure you’re aware of the state’s abortion policies. Some states, for example, may require mandatory waiting periods, mandatory counseling, and/or parental consent for minors. Research the requirements and services of clinics nearest to you before traveling (3). Abortion Finder can help you locate near-by abortion providers. 

2. Travel across states lines for clinician-managed medication abortion. 

Abortion pills, or medication abortions, are a safe option to end early pregnancy (9). Technically, you need a prescription to access the pills, and if you travel to a state that allows them, you can get a prescription from a nurse or doctor via health clinics and telehealth services. It’s possible to access abortion pills without a prescription (self-managed abortion) — online pharmacies can mail them to you, no matter where you live. Clinician-managed medication abortion, rather than self-managed abortion, can present less legal risk, but both are comparable in effectiveness if the online pharmacy has been properly vetted (10, 11). Note that even with a self-managed abortion, you can have someone orienting you online or on the phone in case of doubts or complications. There are also apps, such as Vitala, that can be used in these cases. 

If you can’t afford to travel..

Traveling may be inaccessible to those with children, restrictive work schedules, financial barriers, all of the above, or something else (11). Here are ways you can still access abortion across state lines if you can’t afford to travel.

3. Contact abortion funds for financial and logistical support.

There are several organizations and abortion funds that can reduce the financial cost of traveling for abortion services. They offer help with lodging, child care services, the abortion cost itself, and more. These funds usually don’t cover the entire cost of abortion and travel, but you can apply for funding at multiple places. Abortion funds have different requirements, so it may be helpful to contact a few local abortion funds to see what fits your needs (4). 

If you’re less than ten weeks pregnant..

4. Get educated on self-managed abortions.

Not everyone can travel to access an abortion pill prescription, so many people opt for an at-home or self-managed abortion — a method of ordering and taking abortion pills without a prescription or medical help (10, 11) . You do not have to travel across state lines to access the pill. However, if you select this option, know that online pharmacies that carry the medication are not regulated by the government, and they might come with their own set of risks. However, organizations like Plan C carefully test online pharmacies that sell the pill for safety and efficacy.

5. Learn how self-managed abortion pills work.

If you choose to have a self-managed abortion, it’s important to make sure you have a thorough understanding of the pills’ side effects and risks, along with instructions on how and when to take the pill. Abortion pills tend to be most effective within the first ten weeks of pregnancy, and taking them later can lead to more complications and painful symptoms — though complications are very rare. Short-term symptoms associated with medication abortion include dizziness, chills, and heavy bleeding — all of which should resolve a couple hours after taking the pill (9). If you have any questions about medication abortion and self-managed abortion, Plan C offers guidance to anyone considering the option. If you are planning on a self-managed abortion, try to be in a safe place with someone available to take care of you, physically and emotionally. 

The bottom line 

You deserve access to abortion, no matter where you live. Even if abortion is banned or restricted in your state, there are still effective ways to access it safely, including traveling to a state that allows abortion or taking an abortion pill. As you weigh your options, consider legal implications, along with financial and timeline needs, so that you can make an informed decision on how to move forward. For more support, check out our list of resources for those needing abortion-related care.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Luisa is a writer with a focus in developmental psychology and the study of resilience. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English, and she is currently studying clinical psychology at Columbia University’s Teachers College. In her free time, Luisa likes to hike, read memoirs, and drink lots of caffeine-free tea.

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References

1. Myers C, Jones R, Upadhyay U. Predicted changes in abortion access and incidence in a post-Roe world. Contraception. 2019 Nov;100(5):367-373. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2019.07.139. Epub 2019 Jul 31. PMID: 31376381.

2. Center for Reproductive Rights. After Roe Fell: Abortion Laws by State. Available from : https://reproductiverights.org/maps/abortion-laws-by-state/

3. Guttmacher Institute, State Policies in Brief. State Bans on Abortions Throughout Pregnancy. July 7, 2022. Available from: https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/state-policies-later-abortions

4. Need an abortion? National Network of Abortion Funds. Available from: https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion/

5. Jones RK, Upadhyay UD, Weitz TA. At what cost? Payment for abortion care by U.S. women. Womens Health Issues. 2013 May-Jun;23(3):e173-8. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2013.03.001. PMID: 23660430.

6. Guttmacher Institute. Prosecuting Women for Self-Inducing Abortion: Counterproductive and Lacking Compassion. Available from: https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2015/09/prosecuting-women-self-inducing-abortion-counterproductive-and-lacking-compassion

7. Britton, L. E., Alspaugh, A., Greene, M. Z., & McLemore, M. R. (2020). CE: An Evidence-Based Update on Contraception. The American journal of nursing, 120(2), 22–33. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NAJ.0000654304.29632.a7

8. American Civil Liberties Union. RELIGIOUS REFUSALS AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: Accessing Birth Control at the Pharmacy. Available from: https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/asset_upload_file576_29402.pdf

9. Practice Bulletins—Gynecology, the Society of Family Planning. Medication Abortion Up to 70 Days of Gestation. Contraception. 2020 Oct;102(4):225-236. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2020.08.004. Epub 2020 Aug 14. PMID: 32807380.

10. Moseson, H., Jayaweera, R., Egwuatu, I., Grosso, B., Kristianingrum, I. A., Nmezi, S., Zurbriggen, R., Motana, R., Bercu, C., Carbone, S., & Gerdts, C. (2022). Effectiveness of self-managed medication abortion with accompaniment support in Argentina and Nigeria (SAFE): a prospective, observational cohort study and non-inferiority analysis with historical controls. The Lancet. Global health, 10(1), e105–e113. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00461-7

11. Conti, J., & Cahill, E. P. (2019). Self-managed abortion. Current opinion in obstetrics & gynecology, 31(6), 435–440. https://doi.org/10.1097/GCO.0000000000000585