About This Work

At a time when restrictions on access to abortion and advances in abortion methods have given the issue of self-managed abortion new salience, we are working to raise public awareness around the harms of criminal bans on self-managed abortion, with a specific focus on states where there are laws that criminalize a woman’s decision to induce her own abortion.

Since 2010, more than 400 laws against abortion in states across the country have pushed abortion further out of reach for many women – and an increasingly hostile climate in Washington has made this situation even worse. Other barriers – such as lack of insurance coverage, distance to the nearest provider, cultural or language differences, or distrust of the formal medical system – also impede a woman’s ability to get an abortion.

At the same time, as the World Health Organization has stated, research indicates that medication abortion (abortion with misoprostol alone or coupled with mifepristone) can be a safe and effective method for many women to end their own pregnancies.

If a woman is not able or is unwilling to get abortion care at a clinic or from a medical provider, history shows that they will often take matters into their own hands. Today, in several states, doing that could mean a woman risks prosecution and jail. We are working to ensure that however a woman chooses to end a pregnancy, she can do so safely and effectively and without fear of prosecution by advocating for policies including:

  • decriminalizing self-managed abortion
  • increasing access to abortion services
  • providing public education about where and how to find legal, safe, accessible abortion services;
  • expanding access to contraception


Learn more about our public education work in New York State.

Our Successes

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. Read more here.

Read about NIRH’s work on the decriminalization of self-managed abortion.

NIRH White Paper – “When Self-Abortion is a Crime: Laws that Put Women at Risk”

The legal status of abortion has changed throughout American history – from legal to illegal and back to legal again. However, women seeking to end an unintended pregnancy have always done so, whether it is legal or not. Our white paper, “When Self-Abortion is a Crime: Laws that Put Women at Risk,” documents this history in New York and assess whether there is any justification for the state’s criminal abortion ban. The paper also analyzes the ban’s real impact on women’s health and lives.

New York is one of the handful of states that criminalizes a women’s decision to induce her own […]

Raising Awareness of the Movement to Criminalize Women for their Abortions

NIRH President Andrea Miller has been an outspoken advocate against the laws that criminalize women for their abortion decisions. She has emerged as one of the leaders in the field ringing the alarm bell about politicians’ threats to shame, pressure, and ultimately punish women who end their pregnancies.

See her op-ed in TIME magazine.

To read more about our work on decriminalizing abortion, click here.