Self-care criminalized: Uncovering the full extent of arrests and prosecutions for self-managed abortion with pills
Awarded 2020
Increasing access to medication abortion
Farah Diaz-Tello, JD
If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice

Medication abortion holds the potential to radically expand and equalize access. However, abortion stigma has worked in numerous ways to limit access to this essential technology — undergirding over-regulation, confusing the public, and contributing to a narrative that abortion done outside the clinical setting, even with safe and effective medication, is or should be a crime. Thus, access to medication abortion will not be fully democratized until it is decriminalized and destigmatized. This research will contribute critical data to the multi-pronged effort to dismantle interlocking stigma and criminalization of people who use medication abortion to end their own pregnancies. Marginalized communities are trapped in a double bind: cut off from abortion in the formal healthcare system and criminalized for finding ways to care for themselves outside of it. Given the positive feedback loop between abortion stigma and criminalization, it is imperative we understand the true magnitude of the State’s punitive response toward people who self-manage abortion. Yet no systematic exploration of the frequency and nature of these arrests has been conducted to date. This study will fill the gap by uncovering the extent to which people have been investigated, arrested, or charged with crimes arising from self-managed abortion. This information will better equip us — as a movement — to combat, subdue, and eliminate the stigma and punitive State threats that keep medication abortion from realizing its full potential.