Europe’s “Abortion Drone” Starts Making Flights

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Drones have been hailed as the future of shipping, surveillance, and even war. But to feminist groups in Europe, they could be an essential tool for providing women with access to abortion. On Saturday, a drone will deliver abortion pills from Germany to a border town in Poland, where abortion is illegal in all but a handful of circumstances. The "abortion drone" is a collaboration between Women on Waves (a group that sails to countries where the procedure is outlawed and provides medication abortions while anchored in international waters) and European groups dedicated to improving women's rights in Poland. While the concept of flying abortion pills might seem strange, it's medically safe to take these pills and then check in with a doctor over the phone; according to some U.S. studies, this is just as effective as taking the pills in a doctor's office. Two U.S. states, Iowa and Minnesota, allow abortion pills via so-called telemedicine (women in remote areas can call or video-conference their doctors to avoid multiple long trips to a clinic), although the practice is banned in many others. Rebecca Gomperts, the founder of Women on Waves, told the New York Times in March that Saturday's drone flight is only the first step for pill delivery. "Initially it will be a very small drone, not a large one like the ones DHL, Amazon, and Google are using," she said. Of all the countries in Europe, abortion only remains illegal in Poland, Ireland, and Malta. Women on Waves has been operating since 1999, and Vessel, a documentary about its efforts, was released earlier this year.

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