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Don’t wait until November to fight for abortion rights

I address this commentary to the pro-choice majority who I know are as outraged as I am at the Supreme Court’s disgusting decision taking away the constitutional protection for abortion rights in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Outrage is not enough. We are faced with what Martin Luther King called the “fierce urgency of NOW.” In creating this commentary, I consulted a group of activist women, Older Women Remember and Speak Out (OWRS). They have been working to defend abortion rights for decades, and readers should consider both the oral presentation broadcast on August 5, as well as this expanded version, as my collaboration with OWRs members.

Many have argued that the best response to the US Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and the outrageous actions of state legislatures around the nation, is to vote in November to create a large enough Congressional majority to codify abortion rights nationally. And yes, we do agree that voting in November is important.

But even the best possible results in November would leave all those months between now and January during which access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services, including legal and safe abortions is being denied to women in 26 states.

We all know that bans and restrictions will not stop abortions. Unfortunately, they could create a situation where a medically safe procedure becomes much less safe. This is where all of us, including women past child-bearing age and men of all ages -- can play a constructive role. All of us can help women and girls who want to continue to control their own bodies, notwithstanding the Supreme Court ruling and the mean-spirited behavior of state legislatures. But to do this, we must become informed about two concrete and practical plans to prevent a pregnancy or end an early unwanted pregnancy. So informed, we can then help those in need with practical assistance.

First, let’s consider the information -- and this information is easy to remember. There is Plan B and Plan C! Plan B is the emergency contraception pill. Plan C is a medication abortion brought about by taking (different) pills.

Plan B is actually a brand name for a pill that prevents pregnancy from occurring after unprotected sex. These pills are legal in every state. They are available over the counter at drugstores without a doctor’s prescription and are very safe. There are low-cost generics for the brand name, Plan B -- and some versions might be covered by insurance. A pharmacy near me sells a generic emergency contraception pill for $25 or so but I’ve heard that at some places it’s as low as six dollars.

Of course, contraception to avoid pregnancy -- condoms, pills, IUDs -- are the best methods. However, stuff happens -- condoms break, people forget to take pills. Emergency contraception (Plan B or a generic) should be in our medicine chests right now. I’m not a medical doctor and you don’t need to be either to tell everyone you know about emergency contraception. A single pill prevents pregnancy by delaying ovulation or preventing the egg from attaching to the uterus.

Plan B or its generic equivalent is not an abortion pill because there is no pregnancy to abort. And it’s not limited to the morning after. Take it within three days is the usual advice but the sooner the better. Keep a supply in your medicine chest and make sure your friends know you have them. There’s no expiration date. Again, it’s legal, safe, and available without a prescription.

[For more details from the Planned Parenthood website, see https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/morning-after-pill-emergency-contraception/whats-plan-b-morning-after-pill]

Plan C is the abortion pill or, more accurately, five pills taken a day or two apart. Here’s what we all need to know. Over half the abortions in the United States are done using these pills. They have been FDA-approved as safe for over 20 years. In fact, the safety rating for abortion pills is higher than the rating for Tylenol! In some European countries, 98% of abortions are done via these pills.

There are several ways to get abortion pills no matter what state you live in. The internet is always a dicey place to find information but there is a good site that you can access at https://www.plancpills.org. This site has information about medication abortion pills and how to get them.

A very important section of this website describes legal issues that might arise in some states for people taking medication abortion pills: https://www.plancpills.org/guide-how-to-get-abortion-pills#can-i-get-in-trouble-for-using-abortion-pills. Before this year there were 24 cases of people prosecuted for using such pills. Over the same period of time there were hundreds of thousands of self-medication induced abortions. Obviously, people who live in states determined to outlaw abortion should consult a lawyer before taking on this risk. But buying and keeping a supply of these pills is NOT against the law.

Earlier I mentioned that there are roles in all this for men as well as women past child-bearing age. In addition to informing ourselves and spreading the word, having a supply of emergency contraception and abortion pills in our medicine chests means that a loved one who needs either can get them from without waiting till the pharmacy opens or the mail gets delivered. Both pills, those for Plan B and those for Plan C have no expiration date. Acquiring this information, sharing it, and buying a small stockpile are things we can all do NOW -- and we should! Knowledge is power.

I can’t end this essay without mentioning the good news from Kansas. In a primary on Tuesday August 2 in Kansas, a state that voted for Trump in 2020 by a wide margin of 60% to 40%, voters resoundingly rejected a proposed amendment to ban abortion in in the state constitution by a vote of 59 % against the ban and 41% in favor. Before the primary, there had been an upsurge of people, including many women, registering to vote. It is also significant that many voters in rural areas voted against the proposed amendment. This is the good news we needed in looking ahead to the November midterms.

Again, I thank the members of the Older Women Remember and Speak Out group for their help in writing my oral commentary and this longer version. You can find more information about the group at www.owrspeakout.org.

Michael Meeropol is professor emeritus of Economics at Western New England University. He is the author with Howard and Paul Sherman of the recently published second edition of Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.