Written by Anna Reed, J.D. candidate at the Georgetown University Law Center and current intern at SRHM. Anna is one of the Executive Producers of Self Managed, a new podcast dedicated to destigmatizing and demystifying the practice of self-managed abortion.
The hem of my dressy pants is coming undone, I notice, as I screech a fistfull of hangers aside to make room for my laptop and notes inside my closet. It needs to be quiet. As I wriggle my laptop charger under the crack of the door, the irony is not lost on me that the first podcast episode of Self Managed: An Abortion Story in Eight Parts will be recorded inside a closet. I look up at the hangers, and pause for a moment before dialling in. There is no going back, I think. And with the click of a mouse, our project began.
It is no longer news that you can manage your abortion at home with pills. But that wasn’t true in September. That was when Antonia Piccone– a dear friend from a college Clown class– and I first spoke about self managed abortion. It was raining, and I was furious. “I’m a sex ed teacher, for christsakes! How did I not know that you could just do this at home?!” I sputtered into my phone as I splashed home from school. Antonia, a doula, was also at a loss. Both of us thought we were well-informed about sexual and reproductive health. We took adult sex ed classes. We show up at community teach-ins on birth justice and reproductive autonomy. We listen to the radio, we follow the news. Our moms are big and loud and fiery. They taught us about this stuff. But in fall 2019, almost twenty years after people in Brazil realized you could induce abortions with misoprostol, and French scientists invented of RU486, the idea of a safely self-managed abortion was news to me and Anto.
“This information has been kept from us,” Susan Yanow says softly as the interview comes to a close. Her words seem to echo through my headphones. She’s right. Even me, a kid who had the privilege of going to French public school, where contraception and abortion are mandatory components of the national Biology program, and who had dedicated years of my life toward reproductive justice organizing, had never been told that self managing was an option. Antonia and I want to change that, and the podcast was our method of choice.
Self Managed is entirely dedicated to demystifying and destigmatizing self-managed abortion (SMA). Each episode features a different storyteller who shares their experience within SMA. They include two longtime activists focused on making information about SMA safe and accessible, a person who shares their personal experience with self managing, a reproductive justice lawyer working to decriminalize the practice of SMA, a nurse-midwife on the front lines of COVID-19, a “digital abortion doula” providing support online, and a full-spectrum midwife who provides medication and herbal remedies for unwanted pregnancy. Episodes are free to listen to, and are currently available on our website, smapodcast.org, where they are also transcribed and translated into Spanish.
This series is our contribution to a larger movement to demedicalize and democratize reproductive health. COVID-19 has spurred innovation within the already burgeoning field of self-help technologies in sexual and reproductive health. These technologies are revolutionary. But if we are denied the community and stories we need to understand them, they will never achieve their full potential.
SRHM is actively amplifying the murmurings of a global revolution toward self-help and DIY reprocare, both in the context of COVID and beyond. The organization will soon announce its collaboration with WHO and the Children Investment Foundation Fund (CIF) on a special issue of the journal about self-care interventions and the SRHR of at-risk and underserved communities. This summer, I am joining the SRHM community as a law clerk and intern. It is exhilarating, taking this next step toward a future where providers trust their patients to decide what works for them, where more options than ever are on the table, and where once and for all, we can bring abortion– boldly and without fear– out of the closet.
Please note that blog posts are not peer-reviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of SRHM as an organisation.