National Partnership for Women & Families

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New York Times Magazine Profiles Global Online 'Support Service' for Medication Abortion

New York Times Magazine Profiles Global Online 'Support Service' for Medication Abortion

September 2, 2014 — This week's New York Times Magazine cover story profiles Women on Web, an online "support service" for women in need of medication abortion, and its founder, Rebecca Gomperts, an activist and physician.

Gomperts designed the service as a way to provide "abortions without direct contact with a doctor -- for women in countries where abortion clinics are nonexistent or highly restricted," according to the Times Magazine. She and a small team field email queries from women around the world who want to end their pregnancies but do not have access to safe or legal abortion. According to Gomperts, the organization receives 2,000 such queries each month.

Gompert's efforts also are inspiring abortion-rights advocates in the U.S., where abortion "is simultaneously legal and increasingly hard to access," the Times Magazine reports.

How It Works

Women on Web will help a woman obtain medication abortion drugs only if she is fewer than nine weeks pregnant, to ensure that the pills reach her before the end of the first trimester. The Times Magazine notes that mifepristone and misoprostol -- the two drugs used in the medication abortion regimen -- are 95% to 98% effective at ending a pregnancy when used correctly.

To use the service, a woman fills out an online form that is reviewed by one of five physicians who work part time for Women on Web. The prescription is processed electronically through a drug exporter in India and mailed to the woman with a tracking number that Women on Web uses to follow the packages' progress. The group then emails the recipient with instructions on how to use the drugs and what to expect as they take effect.

Women also can contact the group's help desk with questions or concerns afterward. The help desk staff members will send them a standard list of warning signs and urge them to contact a doctor, but they do not advise on individual symptoms. Women on the Web also counsels women about how to avoid criminal charges if they live in areas where they could face prosecution (Bazelon, New York Times Magazine, 8/28).