In 2018, Ipas Central America and Mexico (Ipas CAM) created an informational video in Spanish on how women can safely self-manage an abortion using misoprostol, a safe and effective drug readily available in most pharmacies in Mexico without a prescription. Staff started using the video to train Mexican pharmacy workers so they could advise and support women seeking abortion pills.
But they quickly realized that views of the video on their YouTube channel far outpaced the number of trainings they were doing. People searching the internet for information on abortion with pills were finding and watching their video (“Safe Abortion with Misoprostol”) by the thousands, and a robust discussion had also started in the comments section.
Around the world, more and more women are choosing to self-manage an abortion using pills. They need clear, accurate information about how to do so safely—and that need has increased sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. The unexpected popularity of Ipas’s video shows just how badly this information is needed online. The video now has more than 550,000 views and over 3,600 comments.
An impromptu support network
“The video’s comments section became like an accompaniment network where primarily women, but also men and even some health professionals, were sharing valuable information and guidance,” says Laura Andrade, a communications advisor with Ipas CAM. Abortion rights advocates use the term ‘accompaniment’ to mean providing accurate, non-biased information and support to a woman seeking an abortion or considering her options for an unwanted pregnancy.
When the Ipas CAM team recently analyzed the thousands of comments, they found around 38% were questions and answers about the process of self-managing an abortion with misoprostol, and 13% were about the pills and how to obtain them. They also found that 163 people had shared their personal experiences with self-managed abortion, which were mostly positive stories of success offering assurance to those considering the option.
“Seeing the astounding number of video viewers and the types of questions and uncertainties people still had, we realized we could make a revised video to address these topics as well,” Andrade says.
Interest spikes during COVID-19
On April 23, 2020, the Ipas CAM team launched a revised video, “Safe Abortion with Misoprostol – How to use these pills for a successful abortion,” with additional sections on expected effects of misoprostol, signs of complications for which you should seek medical help, and how to confirm a successful abortion. This video also has English subtitles, so it can be useful to a much wider audience. In under three months, the video already has almost 300,000 views—a clear sign of the marked rise in the need for abortion and abortion information since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“People seeking information on how to self-manage their own abortions or to accompany a loved one were not our original target audience for this video back in 2018, but we saw a clear opportunity to meet women’s needs and felt an obligation to do what we can,” Andrade says. Ipas CAM shares the video—along with information about contraceptive access and sexual violence prevention during the pandemic—via their social media channels and with the help of local partners.