A look back at a turbulent 2022
Even though abortion as a human right is strongly cemented in international agreements, autocratic regimes in Russia, China, Turkey and Hungary are reversing abortion rights. Also the fundamentalist by Trump appointed US Supreme Court members overturned the Constitutional right to abortion in June 2022. In response, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to include the right to abortion in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, with an overwhelming majority and France approved a bill enshrining abortion rights in the constitution.
Good news is that the World Health Organisation now endorses telemedical abortion services and self-administration of mifepristone and misoprostol without direct supervision of a health-care provider up to 12 weeks pregnancy.
Women on Waves has been involved with many initiatives in 2022:
Improvement of the abortion law in the Netherlands
The Netherlands finally adopted a bill that allows family doctors to prescribe the abortion pill till 9 weeks. This is the result of 15 years of work by Women on Waves and many other organisations and individuals (click here to read more)! This will make abortion much more accessible, especially for undocumented people and foreign students. Until the bill is put in practice, the abortion clinic of Women on Waves in Amsterdam will continue to serve pregnant people. Additionally, in 2022 Women on Waves helped 39 undocumented people and 44 foreign students who could not afford the costs for an abortion in another clinic.
Telemedical abortions in the United States
Women on Waves supported Aid Access to provide free services to people with unwanted pregnancies in the United States. Aid Access provided more than 37000 abortion services in the whole of the USA in 2022. In the restricted states Aid Access provided approximately 23000 abortion services of which it fully donated more than 3500 abortions. These donated services were party covered by donations given to Women on Waves.
As one woman wrote: "I cannot imagine not having found AidAccess. Before you need a service like this, it is hard to understand just how difficult it is to find the care you want and need. It seems outrageous that the United States puts up so many barriers when it comes to women’s healthcare."
More than 180 news outlets mentioned Aid Access and it was the New York Times Magazine cover story.
Five scientific papers about Aid Access were published this year.
- Requests for Self-managed Medication Abortion Provided Using Online Telemedicine in 30 US States Before and After the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization Decision,
- Experiences seeking, sourcing, and using abortion pills at home in the United States through an online telemedicine service,
- Safety and effectiveness of self-managed medication abortion provided using online telemedicine in the United States: A population based study.
- The economic context of pursuing online medication abortion in the United States
- Association of Texas Senate Bill 8 With Requests for Self-managed Medication Abortion
Courtcase against censorship in Spain
Women on Waves coordinated the courtcase by Women's link worldwide against the Spanish government for censoring the Women on Web website starting in 2020. On October 06, 2022the Supreme Court of Spain ordered the partial unblocking of the website. The Supreme Court considered that the information, recommendations, and opinions on sexual health and reproductive rights that Women on Web provides on its website are protected by the right to information and freedom of expression.
Support for Ukrainian women
When the war in the Ukraine started Women on Waves coordinated the contacts between Women on Web, activists from the Netherlands, Poland, Germany and the Ukraine to send large amounts of abortion pills to hospitals and women's rights groups in the Ukraine. Ukrainian journalist Nastia Podorozhnya set up a helpline for Ukrainian women called Martynka: a chatbot on Telegram. Martynka puts women with unwanted pregnancies in contact with Women on Web. More than a hundred Ukrainian women reported to both Martynka and Women on Web each month.
Leadership in research
Women on Waves in collaboration with several universities coordinated the research of the 8 scientific papers that were published in 2022.
- Self-managed medication abortion in South Korea: A retrospective records review of the uptake of medication abortion through online telemedicine prior to decriminalization
- Why women choose self-managed telemedicine abortion in the Netherlands during the COVID-19 pandemic: a national mixed methods study
- Mifepriston: van voor- tot nabehoeden
- A telemedicine model for abortion in South Africa: a randomised, controlled, non-inferiority trial
- Dutch GPs' views on prescribing mifepristone and misoprostol: a mixed-methods study.
- A trans-national examination of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on abortion requests through a telemedicine service..
- Reasons for using telemedicine medical abortion in Mexico and Chile
- Routine-echo niet nodig bij abortus in de eerste lijn
Awards and recognition
The director of Women on Waves, Rebecca Gomperts, received 5 awards and recognition in 2022:
- The Aletta Jacobs Prize 2022 from the university of Groningen in the Netherlands.
- The Glamour Women on the year award for which she traveled to New York for the first time since starting Aid Access in 2022
- The Financial Times 25 most influential women of 2022
- The Bloomberg 50 people who defined global business in 2022
- Ms Top Feminists of 2022
Evolving the network
In 2005 Women on Waves founded Women on Web to provide access to abortions for women globally. In 2021 Women on Web hired a new director, charting its own future and remaining a very close partner. This means that Women on Web will report about its other activiteis this year seperately. Aid Access shares a director with Women on Waves and continues to provide services to women, closing gaps in the current global system. Women on Waves continues to be a fundraising and activist entity, led by Rebecca Gomperts and supported by its board.
The future: 2023
We will continue with our work in safe abortion access globally and in the USA.
A few years ago Women on Waves together with Women on Web and Karolinska Instituted started developing Mifepristone, also known as the abortion pill, as new weekly oral contraceptive. This method does not have the associated contraindications or side effects of the estrogens and progestins in hormonal contraceptives such as weight gain, loss of libido or feelings of depression. It also does not have the increased risk of breast cancer and thrombosis with use of hormonal contraceptives. Weekly use also fits in with users' wishes not to take a pill every day. Mifepristone is also an effective morning after pill that can used up to 120 hours after unprotected intercourse. Combining a weekly contraceptive and morning after pill, makes on demand use of just one pill possible.
In May 2022 the Moldovan Department of Health has given approval for the clinical trial. Women on Waves is now working together with Karolinska Instituted and Leiden University Medical Centre to also obtain the approvals to do the study in the Netherlands. To be able to fund the studies Women on Waves started a crowd funding campaign and reached out to many other funders. The crowd funding campaign alone already collected more than 100.000 euro! The women's health-focused philanthropic investment portfolio, The Case for Her, has helped mobilize multiple other individuals that have provided large donations for the study. Advanced discussions are under way for additional philanthropic funding. Partnerships and major funding will be sought for the subsequent global roll-out. We will start recruitment of participants for the study in 2023! Please donate here to support our work to make mifepristone available as an over the counter on demand contraceptive!
Women on Waves would like to wish you a 2023 with more mifepristone, research, love, pleasure, and above all more peace.