Alabama caught the nation’s attention in May when its governor signed a total ban on abortion place. However, despite the headlines, did you know that it’s still legal (and possible) to have an abortion in Alabama? In today’s confusing and patchwork landscape of abortion restriction laws, you would be forgiven for being misinformed.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood launched a new digital tool called the Seeking abortion care. During a time of regulatory confusion, PP hopes the tool will make access to abortion services more transparent and simpler for women in need.
When a user enters their age, location and length of pregnancy, the digital portal will allow them to locate the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic and let them know if in-clinic procedures or drug abortions are available. There are buttons for “Make an appointment” or “View details”, both of which direct users to the clinic website.
The tool will also provide users with a guide on how specific abortion laws in their state apply to them, which can be difficult to analyze. This is because in the first half of 2019 alone, states adopted 58 restrictive laws governing abortions. The tool explains what these laws mean to people, including information on waiting periods (the requirement to wait 24 to 72 hours between a first in-person consultation and the procedure), gestation periods ( how far away is a pregnancy) and consent. The Care Finder will update its information when states pass new laws.
“We created the tool because we know there was a need for people who were genuinely concerned that abortion was increasingly restricted,” Kevin Williams, national director of digital products at Mashable, told Mashable. the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). “I think what’s different is that it’s very specific.”
To test the tool and after learning about Alabama law in May, I typed an Alabama zip code into the Care Finder and entered information as if I was a teenager from 16-year-old who hasn’t had a period for two months. Assuming the portal told me I would have to travel far to get services, I was surprised to learn that there was still abortion access available in Birmingham, Alabama. I would need parental consent, and the Planned Parenthood clinic would have to do the procedure in person – no medical pills available. But family planning still stood: it turns out that in October, a judge Temporarily blocked the law to come into force. I had missed the news, but not the tool.
“The abortion restrictions that are in place at the state level are so nuanced and so buried in the medley of news we live in these days that we have an easy, searchable, and navigable way to find these. information when it might be needed is an absolutely necessary, useful and important tool, “Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of a nonprofit reproductive health organization Power to decide, who is not involved with the tool, told Mashable.
The tool has its limits. It does not include payment information in the portal itself. Payment for health services is a barrier women face when receiving abortion care (which is why Abortion Fund are a key element in improving access). However, each clinic has payment and insurance information on their website, and the tool prominently links to these sites with a large “View Details” button.
Plus, it only refers users to Planned Parenthood clinics, which means it doesn’t necessarily reflect all of the care available. However, if there are no PP clinics within 60 miles of a person’s location, it will advise the user to call a clinic and get more detailed information on their options, as reported by the National Abortion Federation.
“We know our health centers have a lot more information about the options and the ability to connect a person with additional resources, so we’re starting there,” said Williams.
Having this tool on Planned Parenthood itself and sharing health care information from Planned Parenthood makes sense. Williams said he created the tool after noticing people were searching for “abortion near me” on the PP website.
“We have seen an increase in activity on our website, with people actually trying to get more information on how to have an abortion, what their abortion options are, if the abortion is legal in their state and any restrictions that might prevent them from gaining access, ”Williams said.
Ehrlich also pointed out that the existence of this tool within PP would actually make it useful to those in need.
“While the same type of database might exist in another organization, Planned Parenthood is a really great place because it’s a natural place for people,” Ehrlich said.
Of course, providing information is only half the battle to protect abortion rights.
“This tool, along with many other tools available, is really important because women today cannot wait for policy or regulatory solutions to be put in place or overturned,” Ehrlich said. “They have real-time decisions to make and real-time actions to take. For this reason, this tool helps them do so as we try to fight in the longer term to really ensure that our politics and our government, at both state and federal levels, supporting women’s access to the full range of reproductive health services. “
You can view the Abortion Care Finder at PlannedParenthood.org/AbortionCareFinder.