In the United States, a clandestine network is organized for access to the abortion pill

Spread the love

In the United States, a clandestine network is organized for access to the abortion pill

Photo: Dinky Pictures Production via Agence France-Presse Still from the documentary Plan C, by Tracy Droz Tragos, which follows a group of women mobilized to extend access to the abortion pill to all American women.

The story is sometimes reminiscent of a clandestine network of the 1960s, but it is very current: it is that of a group of women, mobilized despite the risks, to allow all American women to have access to a safe method of abortion, if needed.

Their means of combat: the abortion pill.

Plan C is both the name of a documentary screened this week at the major South by Southwest festival in Austin, USA, and of the organization at the center of the film. It retraces the roller coaster experienced for more than three years by these committed women, between 2019 and 2022.

On the one hand, the pandemic has gradually made it possible to launch, under their impetus, the democratization of teleconsultations and the sending of these pills by post. On the other hand, abortion – and therefore the abortion pill – has become completely illegal in a dozen states following a decision by the American Supreme Court.

“Unfortunately, anti-abortionists have partly won,” director Tracy Droz told Tragos. And “we haven't hit rock bottom yet in the United States,” she fears.

“But more and more people are coming into resistance and making sure there is access. to abortion pills, she says. “So there is an alternative, there is a possible response. »

“Heroic” doctors

It was to better disseminate information about this method that two women, Francine Coeytaux and Elisa Wells, founded the Plan C association in 2015.

Plan A is contraception. Then there's plan B, better known as the morning after pill. And then, in case of an unwanted pregnancy, plan C: medical abortion.

They start by testing the pills that can be bought on the black market, on the Internet, to see if it works. is the real product. If so, they list them on their site.

Then, during the pandemic, faced with the growing difficulties in finding these pills, they make a call to recruit doctors agreeing to prescribe them via telemedicine, and to send them by post to patients.

“After talking to about 150 doctors, we ended up with five,” a “heroic” mobilization, says Elisa Wells. Plan C helps them cover the cost of setting up a teleconsultation service, or even medical licenses to practice in several states.

These female doctors then operate despite legal uncertainty, until until the American Medicines Agency (FDA) clarifies the situation: yes, the pills can indeed be mailed.

Many teleconsultation services are born then.

But in June 2022 , earthquake in the country: the Supreme Court gives back to the states their freedom to legislate on abortion, which becomes illegal in a large part of the country.

“Join the movement”

As access is gradually restricted, a supplier agrees to continue mailing the pills to Republican states, including Texas. An underground network is organized.

“It's like running a drug cartel, but to help people,” says one of the anonymous women in the documentary.

Fear pervades every scene: fear for the women using the pills, fear for those helping them. But also fear that everything will stop, and that they will find themselves without a solution.

The details of the functioning set up are not revealed in the film, on purpose. Faces are blurred, voices distorted, trails of filmed locations scrambled.

“I hope we've done enough, and these people stay safe,” the director says, regretfully that a drug that has been authorized for more than 20 years in the United States finds itself instigating such clandestine operations. “It's a tragedy,” she said.

Finding a platform that agrees to broadcast the documentary is proving difficult today.

Interlocutors find the film “too political”, say they have to remain “neutral”, explains Tracy Droz Tragos, one of whom first documentary on abortion was critically acclaimed. It gave voice to activists on both sides.

She hopes that Plan C carries a message of hope for those who see it: that they know “that they are not alone, that there is a network that exists.”

Since the end of filming, another threat has come to hang over the abortion pill. An ultra-conservative Texas judge is facing a ruling that could suspend its authorization nationwide.

“We remain optimistic that even in the face of these unfair restrictions, access” to the abortion pill “will continue to be possible”, insists Elisa Wells. “We think this is a form of resistance, and it will prevail. »