Increased access to medically and legally accurate knowledge and information has been shown to improve patient outcomes across health areas. Yet, finding medically accurate information about abortions is often confusing and can be further complicated by potential legal consequences for patients in states without privacy protections. Stigma about abortion services may limit general knowledge about abortion, and there is incomplete or misleading information about access to care in many geographies. Patients seeking care also need to navigate a complex web of screenings, funding support applications, and clinical interactions before accessing care, all while avoiding harassing disinformation from fake clinics. Where abortion is restricted or banned, the process of seeking care can get substantially more complex and dangerous. For example, privacy experts warn that prosecutors may be able to search phones, computers, and other devices to incriminate abortion patients—a practice that tends to sit in a legal ‘grey area’ where courts have not yet caught up to technology. In a 2017 case, Latice Fisher, a Mississippi mother-of-three was charged with second-degree murder after investigators found record of her searching online for abortion pills. Fisher was jailed for weeks before a grand jury eventually decided not to bring charges against her, showing how legal threats can make the safe exploration of medical options a stressful and risky act for patients.
When it comes to abortion information services, funders need to boost investment in streamlined, coordinated, and patient-centric points of entry. Organizations like National Abortion Federation, Plan C, and Abortion Finder offer easily navigable, multilingual services to help patients secure funding, travel support, and appointments for their abortion care, but there are barriers to patients finding and using these resources. These barriers include, for example, the proliferation of coercive websites and hotlines like “crisis pregnancy centers,” which purport to provide unbiased information but whose main purpose is to prevent access to abortion. Thus, funders should consider (i) ramping up support to online abortion information services, (ii) advocating and supporting technology companies and legal entities to block advertisements rooted in misinformation (such as recent steps taken by YouTube) and (iii) investing to ensure search terms yield informative results, and (iv) supporting greater expansion and coordination of hotlines and navigational tools to provide a simpler end-to-end experience for patients.SSIR Expanding Abortion Access in Post-Roe America