The Personal Is Geopolitical –
New Spatialities of the Body & Access to Medication Abortion
in the Era of Mail-Order Pharmaceuticals: Digital Story (2019)

About the Project

“The Personal Is Geopolitical – New Spatialities of the Body and Access to Medication Abortion in the Era of Mail-Order Pharmaceuticals” was a digital mapping and spatial analysis project from 2019 that looked at the way spatial relations were being reconfigured through frameworks impacting abortion access: state laws, physical terrain, and changing methods of abortion care. In 2019, access to self-managed medication abortion through prescriptions from remote telehealth was just being piloted in a handful of states. Now, with the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the ongoing changes to the landscape of the right to access abortion care at both federal and state levels, examining questions of how legal, political, and provider-related structures shape the terrain of access for persons seeking abortions is more crucial than ever. (Note: This mapping project has not yet been updated to reflect the extremely impactful post-2019 changes, but a future version examining the 2019-current period is in the research phase. There have been many excellent visualizations of changes since 2019 by researchers and journalists, particularly in The New York Times, which I highly recommend viewing for further documentation of these issues.)

This 2019 project took as its center of study the increasing availability of self-managed medication abortion—that is, abortion through taking mifepristone and misoprostol where consultation with health care providers can be done remotely via teleconference and the abortion process itself can be completed by the woman in her own home—and considered how this emerging form of access generates a changed relationship with the other two factors, state law and physical terrain. Much in the same way that building a new road could change a person’s experience of space and change possibilities of movement between two towns, the project argued that this new form of abortion access reconfigures space for women considering abortion, giving them new possibilities for overcoming barriers to access such as long driving times to clinics, constricting state laws, and the hazards of having to potentially pass through a phalanx of anti-abortion protestors at a physical clinic. The content of the digital story was based on the landscape of abortion access legal structures and medications in 2019 – the years thereafter have seen continued reshaping of this landscape through multiple changes in legal rights to utilize telemedicine to address potential abortion care needs and multiple legal challenges to the rights of women and others seeking care to choose abortion in states across the US. This landscape is ever-changing.


Notes on the Project Development: This project incorporates source information from the Guttmacher Institute, the National Abortion Federation, NARAL, ANSIRH, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood, as well as publications in academic journals (particularly Contraception) and news media (particularly The New Yorker and The New York Times). The end of the digital story lists further information on sources.

View the digital story

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