Women Help Women – Information for Abortion Rights

by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. The following challenging
interview is about contraception and abortion, something anybody, man or woman, has
to think in life, independently from personal opinion and reasoning. I talked to Kinga Jelinska from
Women Help Women about her organization for abortion rights
and understood  the importance of access to information, no matter your own, personal

What is the main objective WHW?

Women Help
Women puts abortion pills, morning after pill and contraception where they’ve
always belonged – in women’s hands.

Women have
always and will always need reproductive care services including abortion, no
matter what are the legal regulations. One in three women will have at least
one abortion in her lifetime. It is estimated that more that 20 million illegal
abortions take place every year. This is a scale of denial of abortion care
that causes systematic harm and suffering of thousands of women dying and
loosing their health. It is also a clear human rights violation.

governments violate our rights, women help other women to get the services and
information they need. That is why we are called women help women. We deliver
services, but also involve people we help in the chain of solidarity by
encouraging fierce activism for abortion rights.

Can you explain what this means in practice for you? We bridge the gap between
reproductive rights advocacy efforts and service provision.

At Women
Help Women we offer practical solutions. We deliver services that respond to
very concrete, individual and timely need like access to abortion pills. Those
medicines are sent by post to those that need them. We also offer information
to people: how to get misoprostol (abortion pills) locally, how to travel to a
clinic in another country (for example from Poland to Germany), what
organizations can help you locally (with information, support, funding to pay
for the clinic, translations etc.). Simultaneously we work for empowerment of
women, women’s autonomy, choices, decriminalization of abortion and legal
changes. We cherish feminist activism and community organizing.

In a
nutshell: we simply trust women. They are the real experts on their own lives
and we trust them with whatever choice they make. We are there to support their
choices and needs. We discuss the oppressive environment in which abortion is a
taboo and stigmatized topic within the patriarchal discourse. We acknowledge
that abortion is a normal and very common fact of life. Access to abortion is a
social good – it comes from understanding and respecting bodily autonomy, and
respect for scientific facts and public health needs.

we work mostly on medical abortion (abortion with pills) we stand for choices:
while some women might feel empowered and happy to use abortion pills on their
own at home, others will prefer to have a procedure in clinical settings. All
options and needs need to be equally protected. Even though women are
resourceful and help each other, it is never acceptable that a state does not
provide essential reproductive healthcare. Abortion must be safe, free and

Which are the main services you offer?

Women Help
Women runs a multilingual information center about the use of abortion pills
and contraceptives. Requests for information and for help come mostly from
women living in settings where access to abortion is legally restricted. People
can request abortion pills and/or contraceptives online. A small package is
then sent to their home address. It arrives within a couple of days.

Our team
of counselors working mostly through email is based in 17 countries, speaks 7
languages, and works 16 plus hours a day every single day of the year. They
assist a woman before, during and after the process. Our approach is
individual, we understand that every person has different needs, and we are
here to serve with information and engage in conversations.

We are in
touch with many people, currently sending more than 5000 emails a month. A
typical person that contacts us has children or not, is in a relation or
single, is younger or older. That is to underline – that all women have
abortions, they are us, our sisters, friends, neighbors.

Women Help
Women also works closely with a network of activists that deliver information
and help women get contraception and safe abortions in their regions. Many of
our partners run safe abortion hotlines. Women, also in countries where
abortion is legally very restricted, can call a number and get information on
abortion pills and safe options. Such hotlines are literally a life-saver for
women in countries like Poland, Indonesia, Thailand, Chile, Argentina, Kenya,
Nigeria and many others. They work directly in communities to give women
objective, neutral and friendly information and mental support. They are often
run by feminist collectives, who do an outstanding job to empower women, and
also in advocating for human rights and legal changes in their countries.

What does feminism mean to you, and how can feminism make our world better?

is a very basic notion that women are people. That means that they have equal
rights, equal opportunities, ought to be treated with respect and dignity. This
may sound indisputable, obvious, logical, and very rational, but is certainly
not the case in most societies.

I do not
have the same rights and opportunities as my male peers. There are unreasonable
social pressures and expectations for me, often related to reproduction and
what it means to be a woman. Additionally, in many places the policies and laws
sustain the gender inequality. Think about yourself and your social

The right
to abortion is not a single, separated issue. It is intertwined with
social-economic factors, ethnicity, gender, age, and abilities. It is also not
just a health matter, it is related to societal values and patriarchal
discourse. In fact abortion is a very simple and safe medical procedure.
Medically, there is nothing exceptionally complex about abortion, it’s the
politics that makes it scandalously complicated.

Tell us why you have decided to focus on abortion rights?

because access to abortion is a fundamental right and a matter of equality,
freedom and autonomy. Also, because the lack of access to abortion causes
suffering and deaths. Lastly, because those horrific consequences are
completely and entirely preventable, if abortion is made legal and safe, or if
women know about abortion pills and can use them, irrespectively of the

How important are resources and information for our work as women rights

Women Help
Women addresses an unmet need – there are millions of women that need
information about, and access to contraception and abortion. However, both
getting the products and information are often restricted. Governments,
traditional mainstream media, and many communities censor information.

is power. Giving and receiving information is a human rights, and also
protected by most national constitutions.

encourage information sharing and work with partners to disseminate
information. Our approach is very open source (in terms of sharing the
information, tools, methodologies), and we believe open source is a basic stand
for all activist and human rights initiative. We do a lot of information
dissemination online. People look for information, services and products online
– this is today’s reality.

We observe
a lot of misinformation about abortion. Wrong or no information is often given
because of ideological reasons by people opposed to abortion. Many women email
us to tell they have been cheated, with deliberately incorrect information,
with fake products. Our work is in fact reactive to already existing trends, we
just offer the safe, reliable alternative.

abortion pills have been safely used by millions of women for more than 20
years, many women still do not know about this method. Mifepristone and
misoprostol, the abortion pills, are very safe, studied thoroughly by most
respected research institutes, and are on the list of essential medicines of
the World Health Organization, which recommends which medicines are essential
for human health should be made available. Taking 1 mifepristone, and 24 hours
later 4 pills of misoprostol in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy provokes an
abortion. The process is just like a miscarriage, with bleeding and cramps, and
can be taking place at your own home, as long as you have the information. This
is a revolutionary method that a woman can have in the privacy of your own
home. This simple information about the existence of abortion pills and its
potential to protect health and autonomy of women must be shared as widely as

There is a
huge ethical value in reducing obstacle to knowledge.