LiveBlog: Mobile for Sensitive Issues: Abortion Stories

Mobile Phone Helplines & Online Services Change the Landscape of Abortion Access in Countries with Restrictive Laws

Kinga Jelinska

Leads off with some statistics: 2 women will die during her talk from abortion. Abortion laws make abortions overwhelmingly less safe, resulting in more injury or death – they don’t eliminate abortion.

Misoprostol Cytotec – 12 pills over 3 days – causes a miscarriage, making abortion suddenly safe and private and harder to track – a revolution!

Women on Waves: we go to country where abortion is illegal in a Dutch boat, take women 12 miles off shore into international waters, and Dutch law applies to us, and we are able to give abortions.  Learn more and watch –

She shows amazing clip of the women from the boat marching with banners in a demonstration, hanging info on walls in a country where abortion is not legal – and then turning on their cell phone to find 79 messages from Ecuadorean women who want abortions.

Lesbianas y Feministas por el Derecho a Information – Chilean activists.

Low resource initiatives to try: posters, zine style handbooks, stamping money with your helpline number.

Amazing ads where they posed as Diesel and did fake ads – “Abortion pills: a gift from god – wake up & believe whatever you want to believe.
1 million people visit websites in yr / 115,000 help emails replied per year  from 135 countries

We trust women to give birth & deal with miscarriage –

Why do we not trust women to take abortion pill, control their bodies, “handle” information about their options?

m-Assist Study: Can Non-Voice Use of Mobile Phones Replace Follow-up Medical Abortion Appointments

Katherine de Tolly, Cell-Life, South Africa

Methods: SMS coaching through Medical abortion – 2 weeks from 1st appt – these messages were automated and were designed to tell women what to expect. – example message “Hi! Welcome to Day 2 – You probably will bleed heavily. If you soak more than 6 maxipads in 2 hours, go to the clinic.”

Self-Assessment of abortion completion – a multiple choice quiz with forking paths to either send women to the clinic or let them know they were healthy  – example question: “did you bleed? Send the number of your answer 1 Yes 2 No”

What we learned: 99% would recommend these to a friend, 98% said they helped them, can’t be precise about timing as SMS come late.

Privacy: 20% worried about privacy; this would not work in a country where shared cell phones were common.

Themes in comments from users: it felt like somebody was with me and somebody understood me, I felt carried, this was a support structure for me.

The intervention group significantly reduced anxiety & impact scores for treatment avoidance.  While we had made the quiz, we didn’t feel like there was a great way to assess whether the abortion was complete or not and we need to continue working on the wording for this.

We learned that a few SMSes is not enough, however, to get people to use family planning – that part of the program needs expanding

The results of this study & the text of the SMSs and more will be on Health Unbound –

Love & Connection Diffuse Stigma & Shame – Aspen Baker (@aspenbaker) & Ronak Dave’ (@ronakisprovoice), Exhale (@exhaleprovoice)

Ronak begins with her abortion story, which I can’t possibly do justice to here in this blog because her words are so moving.  She came from an immigrant South Asian family and had difficulty accessing information she had a great experience in the clinic, but had to go through protestors to get there.  For her, abortion was quite traumatic and resulted in PTSD, but talking about her experience helped her heal around it, including giving public talks.

“Storysharing played a huge role in my recovery, and also helped me to understand my experience over time – people didn’t know how to listen to me or this story. I think the conversation in our community about abortion is like  a chess game – one side against the other.”

“I tell my story publicly and online over and over again, and I’ve refined the story and gotten stronger. I’m scared but I know that it has the potential to create a world with less stigma.  I know I have strength in my vulnerability.”

Pro-Voice Storytelling characteristics: Shared decision making – I own my story not the org, Respect, Strengths based approach, non-judgement, compassion

National Pro-Voice Tour – – we found that pro-voice, compassion, empathy, stigma … applies to many things in our lives, that this is a common human element. stories of unemployment, job loss, other experiences that are stigmatized came up.  people told us we had humanized abortion, for many of them this was their first abortion story.

Aspen takes over with history of Exhale:

Exhale is a community of women who tell their stories – we began in 2002 with a telephone – a lot has changed but our mission is still to meet people where they are, and we are still committed to pro-voice storytelling characteristics. We meet people technologically. Some of us were on MTV’s No Easy Decision. We created a campaign called 16 & Loved (a riff off 16 & Pregnant) to be a safe, moderated place where people could send love and support to the women on this show – and lots and lots of people shared their own abortion stories because we built this environment on support and request. After we developed all this around private sharing, we sought to find out what women need who are sharing their stories publicly, and what they wanted – they wanted to see a broader impact from their stories. They wanted to be part of a community and they needed a platform – and so we created the Pro-Voice Tour.

“Some people are public from the day of their abortion and some people will never tell anyone – there are many points of entry.  Technologically we have to meet people where they are, but also emotionally.”

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