Facebook Continues to Ban Accounts that Support Women's Access to Safe Abortion
Instagram and Facebook have blocked popular social media accounts that facilitate and advocate for access to safe abortions managed by Women on Web.
With no prior notice, Facebook has blocked access to two Instagram accounts and one Facebook page in the last 3 months. The accounts had a total number of 6986 followers. All accounts remain closed and attempts to reinstate the accounts have been unsuccessful.
The first disabled accounts were Polish-language Facebook page and an Instagram account (@aborcjapolska_wow). The Instagram account in particular was increasing its followers at a steady pace and just before its closure it had been shared by another popular Instagram account, resulting in 600 new followers. Instagram reinstated the account for a short period of time, only to be suspended again. Both accounts have now been disabled since late September and prevented Women on Web from supporting the protests in Poland through social media.
On 7th of December, Instagram suspended the main Women on Web account (@abortionpil). Similar to the previous two bans, the platform offers no way to request a review of the decision. In order to request a review, one needs to “go to Instagram and confirm it’s you before requesting a review” which is not possible when the account has been disabled, effectively blocking all means to make appeals and hold the platform accountable for their actions.
The timing and the impact of these bans are troubling for abortion access as COVID-19 security and isolation measures have already hampered access to contraceptives and safe abortion care on a global scale. During the pandemic, Women on Web has offered a low-threshold option to access safe abortions and prevented individuals from exposing themselves and their families to the virus when receiving or travelling to receive clinical care.
How can anti-abortion accounts be able to spread misinformation on these same platforms, but information that is based on science and real experiences of people continue to be censored? The prohibitive practices of Facebook and Instagram, giving no prior warning before closing the account, have left hundreds of women and pregnant people without life-saving information on safe abortions.
Women on Web urges Facebook to reinstate the accounts and protect people’s right to access information.
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Women on Web is a non-profit organization operating an online referral service providing help and information on medical abortions in countries with restrictive settings. Since its establishment in 2005, Women on Web team has answered over 1 million online help requests and provided region- and country-specific information about medical abortion in 22 languages. Research into the outcomes of the Women on Web service has proven its safety and effectiveness. The World Health Organization recommends that individuals up to 12 weeks of pregnancy can self-administer medical abortion pills without direct supervision of a health-care provider.