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Instagram Suspends Abortion Pill Resource Days Ahead of Texas Ban

Plan C, a site that provides people with information about self-managed abortion, had its account removed from the platform on Saturday

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Image for article titled Instagram Suspends Abortion Pill Resource Days Ahead of Texas Ban
Photo: Olivier Douliery / AFP (Getty Images)

Days ahead of the six-week abortion ban slated to go into effect in Texas on Wednesday, an abortion pill resource has been suspended from Instagram.

The advocates behind Plan C—which provides people with information about how to access and safely administer the pills, not the pills themselves—realized that their account had been taken down from the platform on Saturday, while they were on a four-day road trip in Texas.

According to Elisa Wells, the cofounder and co-director of the organization, the purpose of the road trip is to raise Texans’ awareness of self-managed abortion, a safe and effective method of ending an abortion at home, with abortion pills. The page was disabled while the group was posting original art from Texas activists, informing users that self-managed abortion is an option if clinics in the state are shuttered.

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Wells said Plan C was notified that the page had violated community guidelines or terms of use, and that it would be suspended for the next 30 days—a problem the organization has run into in the past. Instagram has previously accused Plan C and other abortion rights organizers of promoting pharmaceutical drugs, citing a policy that says any non-sponsored content promoting pharmaceutical medical products is banned from the platform. Plan C is currently awaiting an internal review. (Instagram has not responded to Jezebel’s request for comment.)

Plan C is active on Twitter and TikTok, but the temporary suspension cuts the group off from one major avenue they planned to use to amplify their message, Wells said. The account’s absence could pose a problem hundreds of Texans who may be searching for information about how to obtain an abortion after Wednesday.

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“Instagram is a platform that serves the age demographic we’re looking to provide information to, and people flock to social media platforms like Instagram for info about healthcare,” she said. “We [want to] be present in that space and be able to provide factual and evidence-based info about how to access care.”

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Though six-week abortion bans are typically preempted in court, the nature of Texas’s latest ban makes it difficult to do so. Rather than being enforced by the state, the law, Senate Bill 8, deploys private citizens as its enforcement agents, encouraging them to file lawsuits against people they suspect of obtaining or providing abortions after six weeks. This provision has stymied groups like Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights from challenging the law in court, since technically they are not allowed to name the Texas attorney general or any state officials in their suit—the typical defendants in such cases—since those officials will not be the ones enforcing the law.

The pro-abortion rights plaintiffs have tried to get around this legal technicality by instead suing “every state judge and every court clerk” they can think of, Rewire’s Imani Gandy explained, “because [those judges and clerks] might be called upon to help enforce the law in the future by participating in the civil lawsuits.” Still, it may not work: A preliminary injunction hearing originally scheduled for Monday—which could have potentially blocked S.B. 8—was cancelled last week.

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It’s a confusing law. But the gist is that a legal loophole could allow the legislation to be implemented on Sept. 1, forcing abortion providers to comply, and preventing anyone in the state from obtaining an abortion after the six-week mark—at least in a clinic. After Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning abortion for nearly four weeks in March 2020, researchers found a 94 percent increase in Texans who requested abortion pills from Aid Access, a telemedicine site that mails people the medication from overseas. It’s safe to assume that many of the people who requested the pills received them, and gave themselves abortions outside of a clinic or hospital setting.

Wells said Plan C wants to reassure Texans that, come Wednesday, they don’t necessarily have to cross state lines to access abortion care. (And indeed, many of them would not be able to anyway.) Though people who perform self-managed abortions can be criminalized, authorities have found it difficult to trace abortion pills that are sent by mail—which is increasingly how people in hostile states are accessing abortion, regardless of what abortion laws may be on the books. Even people in abortion-friendly states, like New York and California, have come to prefer this method for its convenience, affordability, and privacy.

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“It’s the 21st century: We have a safe technology, and it’s available to people by mail, even in Texas,” Wells said. “We want people to know they don’t have to travel to have a safe abortion.”