The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court has brought the issue of abortion access back into the forefront and people try to understand the impact her confirmation might have on abortion rights in the US.
I grew up in a country where abortion was neither legal nor uncommon. While I never found myself in need of access to an abortion, I had friends and acquaintances who did. Whether a person was able to find a doctor willing to perform the procedure, or whether they tried to source an abortifacient from a pharmacist or someone who knew about herb, they did so with only the minimum of knowledge. In those pre-internet days, information was hard to come by, and accurate information harder still. These days things are different, there’s a wealth of information available online, but people have a hard time deciding what to trust.
This summer, I worked with a Wiki Scholars course sponsored by the Society of Family Planning (SFP). Like the three previous iterations of the course, the participants worked on a range of articles related to reproductive health, including topics like Abortion in North Carolina, Abortion in Wisconsin, ectopic pregnancy and healthcare and the LGBT community.
Ideally, there should never be need for self-induced abortion, but as long as demand for abortion doesn’t match the availability of abortion performed under the supervision of a medical provider, it’s important for Wikipedia to have the best information possible. While people should never be coming to Wikipedia for medical advice, the fact that they do means that we need to have the best information possible in Wikipedia’s medical articles. A participant in this SFP class improved the self-induced abortion article, as have participants in previous groups.
Aid Access is an organization which provides access to medical abortion by mail in the United States. Their Wikipedia article was created by a participant in this class. Other people worked on the medical abortion (also known as medicinal abortion) article, an article that has also seen improvements from previous groups. Approximately 40% of all abortions in the United States use medication to cause abortion, and experts have expected that number to increase since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, readers looking for more information about telehealth options for abortion care have better information thanks to these new Wikipedia editors.
Regardless of how things proceed in the coming years in the US, people will continue to see pregnancy terminations in places where the option of doing it safely is either not available or not affordable. And even where access to safe, affordable abortion services do exist, access to accurate information allows them to make better decisions for themselves. I am proud to have had the opportunity to support these remarkable Wiki Scholars, many of whom were working in hospitals while the COVID-19 pandemic rages.