For years, abortion providers have prepared for what America might look like after Roe v. Wade.
Now, with the reversal possibly imminent, one woman is fast becoming one of the country’s biggest suppliers, even though she lives thousands of miles away.
“We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of women around the world,” said Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Aid Access.
For more than 20 years, Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts has been helping women around the world get abortions in places where it’s illegal.
In 2014, the documentary “Vessel” documented his efforts to provide abortions on ships in offshore waters near countries such as Ireland, Poland, Morocco and Guatemala. Since 2018, she has also helped tens of thousands of women in the United States, this time through access to her website.
Using the site, Americans can order abortion pills – mifepristone and misoprostol – after consulting a doctor remotely.
The delivery system works even in the 19 states that restrict abortion pills by mail, also known as telehealth abortion. In many of these states, Aid Access is the only provider to offer the service.
Dr. Gomperts explained how Roe’s likely reversal would impact her and her organization.
BEN SCHAMISSO DE NEWSY: Don’t you think that women would be afraid to use your services?
DR. REBECCA GOMPERTS: Thus, most states do not criminalize women who perform abortions, so they cannot be prosecuted. That said, the other risk is that women are afraid to see first aid or a doctor in case they have a complication. And that’s why Aid Access always says to women, ‘Don’t tell anyone you took abortion pills, just say you had a miscarriage.'”
Based in Austria and shipping drugs from India, Aid Access is beyond the reach of US law enforcement.
SCHAMISSO: You are in the Netherlands, but do you still feel that your organization is taking a risk and doing something that in some states is considered illegal? And how do you handle that?
GOMPERTS: I am a doctor and I have the obligation and the medical oath to support people who need medical help. And so my awareness is bigger than my fear, I guess.
Pill abortions have increased exponentially over the past 20 years, accounting for more than half of pregnancy terminations in the United States in 2020. The two-drug procedure is considered safe and effective for pregnant women up to 10 weeks.
Aid Access charges between $110 and $150, or less for those who cannot afford it.
“I think it’s really important that people, even if they don’t have money, can still access an abortion service because it’s so important for the future of women and also for the future of their families,” said Dr Gomperts. “That’s also the problem with these laws. It never affects women who have money and resources and access to education. It harms and always affects the most vulnerable people.”
Dr. Gomperts says abortion pills are the future of reproductive health, especially in places where access to surgical abortion is limited due to laws or other factors.
In Ukraine, for example, Dr. Gomperts says her other organization, Women on Web, has been very active.
“Women on Web has been very involved in ensuring that women in Ukraine can also access abortion pills because of the rapes that have taken place,” Dr Gomperts said. “I think that’s why abortion pills are so important, because they’re empowering.”
Aid Access is the only service openly allowing Americans to stock up on abortion pills for the future.
“It’s like preventative medicine,” Dr. Gomperts said. “That’s what people do when they travel. You know, you bring antibiotics and painkillers with you to make sure that if you get sick you can have the things you need to treat yourself.
In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s possible overturning, Dr. Gomperts urges abortion rights activists around the world to stand together.
“We are in this together and we struggle together,” she said. “All abortion providers, all women’s rights organizations, but also friends, family partners who help women access abortion.”
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