Abortion: Health Care, Not a Crime

One in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old. They are women of a range of ages, races, and religions, and from diverse backgrounds and communities. Despite what sets them apart, they have one thing in common: they are frequently subject to laws that restrict their access to abortion care.

When a woman has decided to have an abortion, she should be able to access safe, legal, affordable, supportive care.

But since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, states have enacted at least 1,271 medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion access, causing widespread clinic closures and significant barriers to care. This has disproportionately impacted women of color, immigrant women, low-income women, and women in rural communities. Other barriers – such as lack of insurance coverage, distance to the nearest providers, or cultural or language differences – also impede a woman’s ability to get an abortion at a clinic or from a health care provider.

If a woman is not able to get abortion care at a clinic or from a medical provider, history shows that she will find a way.

We believe in abortion without punishment.
Across the country, data shows that women are increasingly searching for how to access abortion online, and websites are popping up to provide medication abortion outside of the medical system.

While research and use over last several decades around the world has shown that medication abortion can be safe and effective when used outside of a medical setting, with the right medication and information, it remains overly regulated by the federal government. The current climate of attacks on reproductive health care has revealed an increased willingness on the part of the anti-abortion movement, anti-abortion politicians and law enforcement to prosecute women for ending their own pregnancies.

For many women who self-manage their abortion using medication abortion, the threat of prosecution is greater than the threat of physical harm. 

NIRH’s priority is to ensure that abortion is not treated like a crime. We are working in states to enshrine protections for reproductive health decisions, including the decision to end a pregnancy, and ensure that no woman is prosecuted for ending her pregnancy, no matter the method or reason. That means decriminalizing abortion in as many states as possible — including in the five states where self-managed abortion is explicitly a crime, and other states with any law that treats abortion as a crime or could be misused to prosecute a woman for ending her pregnancy.

Our Successes

Abortion Without Punishment Campaigns

With the implications of a gutted Roe, and fewer abortion clinics open and accessible, we now face the perfect storm for the criminalization of women and medical professionals for seeking or providing abortions. Archaic laws criminalizing abortion could become enforceable and states could introduce new legislation to ban abortion outright, as they have in Ohio. In 2018 and 2019, NIRH supported statewide campaigns in Ohio, New York, and Michigan to decriminalize people seeking abortions and providers who offer abortion care.

Passing & Protecting New York’s Reproductive Health Act

For more than 10 years, NIRH and the NIRH Action Fund led the advocacy campaign to educate the public, rally New Yorkers, and convince elected officials to update New York’s laws by passing the Reproductive Health Act.

NIRH Digital Campaign Educates Public About New York’s Outdated Self-Managed Abortion Law

Massachusetts Passes State Decriminalization Bill Safeguarding Abortion Access

On July 18, 2018, the Massachusetts legislature passed long-overdue proactive legislation to decriminalize abortion. This win is significant because it overturns archaic statutes that have been used to prosecute women who self-manage their own abortions. With this win, Massachusetts pushed back against a hostile anti-choice federal landscape, and laid the groundwork to push even further to enshrine he full range of protections for abortion access in Massachusetts law.

NIRH worked closely with NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts on the effort to decriminalize abortion in Massachusetts, providing funding, communications support and strategic guidance. We were proud to work closely with NARAL Massachusetts to get this […]

NIRH White Paper on Self-Managed Abortion – “When Self-Abortion is a Crime: An Analysis of Massachusetts Law”

NIRH’s white paper, “When Self-Abortion is a Crime: Laws that Put Women at Risk: An Analysis of Massachusetts Law,” raises awareness about the harms of criminal bans on self-abortion, with a particular focus on Massachusetts, which is one of a handful of states with criminal laws on the books that explicitly make self-abortion illegal.