Woman as Reason: The abortion pill is not magic

January 29, 2022

From the January-February 2022 issue of News & Letters

by Terry Moon

When women learned of the abortion pill, “That’s when we knew we had a solution. We didn’t need doctors any more….If that’s the only way that people will become conscious that what the government is doing is a major violation of human rights, then yes….We aren’t afraid. We are willing to face criminalization, because women’s lives matter more than their law.”  Verónica Cruz, feminist activist, founder of Las Libres (The Free Ones)

A cheap, effective, safe drug that causes an abortion is “revolutionary…. But it wouldn’t have been so effective in saving women’s lives without the feminist networks of accompaniment and health professionals willing to engage in civil disobedience.” —Giselle Carino, Chief Executive of Fós Feminista, an international alliance of health groups.

When the U.S. Supreme Court confirms that it is no longer a check on Republican overreach but a gung ho member of their club and it either guts or overturns Roe v. Wade, women in 12 states will be kicked to the curb and forced to carry a pregnancy to term and have children they do not want or know they cannot take care of. The misery this will cause—including women’s deaths—will be enormous. We know, because we’ve been there before and because we know what is happening to women in other countries where abortion is outlawed.


Women marching in Chicago to show opposition to any Supreme Court decision that would overturn or gut Roe v. Wade. These marches were nationwide on Oct. 2, 2021. Photo: Terry Moon for News & Letters.

Many are looking at the “abortion drug,” misoprostol, as a solution. It is very safe, effective, should be cheap, and the Food and Drug Administration recently overturned an outrageous right-wing ban on delivering it by mail. But those who think this drug will be the solution to women’s abortion needs are mistaken. First, abortion fanatics are already plotting to make it illegal, threatening doctors, etc. Second, and most serious, is that getting the pill to the tens of thousands who need it will be extremely difficult. Even getting the knowledge about its existence to women who need to know about it, much less how to
get it and use it, will be a mighty task.

It will take a movement. That is why this column begins with the quotes from two activists in Mexico who are part of such a movement there. There is no question that there is a movement in the U.S. too. We see it in the Women’s Marches; the abortion funds that have made such a difference in poor women’s lives; and in many of the abortion providers themselves who struggle to stay in a business that doesn’t make them rich, but gives them the satisfaction of being able to help women when they need it most.

It’s there in the fact that the Women’s Movement in Mexico has already had meetings with women in Texas to work out how to help U.S. women self-manage their abortions. No doubt some of this work has already begun.


But misoprostol is not magic. For every woman who wants or needs an abortion to actually be able to get one, abortions need to be free, safe, and easily available. As it is now, and how it may become when Roe v. Wade is history, abortion—via pill or not—will be out of reach for far too many.

Thus the Movement we are talking about can’t only have as its goal making abortion free, safe and easily accessible, the goal should be much broader: women’s freedom. Abortion is not only a right women must have, it is also code for women’s freedom because if we do not have the right to control our own bodies we clearly are not free.

This is one key reason why the anti-abortion movement is so popular and so outrageously fanatical—e.g., being against birth control, banning abortions even if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or if the fetus is dead in the womb or will die when born or be born with horrendous physical problems for which anti-abortion states give no aid. Most anti-abortion activists who are on the streets, yelling “murderer” into the faces of women walking into clinics, or staffing so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that have no medical professionals on staff and tell pregnant women lies, are part of a movement too.
Their movement is very up front about being opposed to women’s freedom.

The U.S. right wing and wannabe fascists have usurped the word freedom and have cheapened it to mean freedom to hurt others: not wear masks or get vaccinated, open carry guns to intimidate protesters, discriminate against people of color and LGBTQ+ people, etc. When women talk of freedom, it means the right to control our bodies, the freedom to walk in the streets unmolested, even when those “streets” are online, and, most importantly, to be recognized as human.

That’s what the abortion rights movement has implicitly been fighting for—for decades. Now is the time to make that luminously clear.

One thought on “Woman as Reason: The abortion pill is not magic

  1. Prior to the November 1972 election I was campaigning for Michigan’s Proposal B–to make abortions legal, subject only to the consent of a woman and her doctor, to replace the state law which made almost all abortions a felony. Three weeks before the election the Catholic Church sent anti-abortion brochures with greatly enlarged gory photographs of fetuses to every household in Michigan , and Proposal B was defeated. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the old state law is still on the books and goes into effect again. I will be helping circulate petitions for replacing that law, but time is running out. I am still fighting for reproductive freedom and justice.

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