NEWS

This OB-GYN Is Using TikTok to Educate People on Abortion Resources

Jennifer Lincoln, OB-GYN

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Lincoln

Key Takeaways

  • The Texas abortion ban prohibits people from seeking abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into the pregnancy.
  • An OB-GYN is using TikTok to inform people on abortion resources.
  • TikTok is one of the best platforms to reach Gen Z audiences, who may seek for reproductive health information for themselves or others.

Since the Texas abortion ban last week, some commenters have encouraged people to seek abortions out of state.

But accessing out-of-state health care isn’t a simple task, especially when barriers like the costs of transportation, distance, work, and family responsibilities come into play. 

“Put yourself in the middle of Texas and then tell me how long it takes to get out of state,” Jennifer Lincoln, MD, an OB-GYN in Portland, Oregon and author of an upcoming book about reproductive health, tells Verywell.

“It’s not that simple,” she says. “But there are resources.”

Lincoln has taken to social media—specifically TikTok—to educate people on ways to bring abortion care to Texans who need it. With 2.3 million followers, she uses her platform to disperse information on reproductive health care and offer guidance on how to join protests or donate to advocacy groups.

“When this abortion ban came out, I thought I need to break this down and do it quickly because people are going to go right to TikTok,” Lincoln says.

The Texas law, known as S.B. 8, prohibits abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. This can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and before some people discover that they’re pregnant. People can face civil lawsuits for performing or aiding in abortions for a patient after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The law does not make exceptions for rape or incest.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Thursday that the Justice Department would sue Texas for the law, calling it “clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent.”

On the same day the law took effect, Lincoln posted a TikTok on five things people need to know about the Texas abortion ban, which gained 3.3 million views. “These bans won’t do anything to decrease abortion rates,” she said in the video. “It will just decrease access to safe abortion.”

In the following days, she posted explainer TikToks on birth control, morning after pills, and other reproductive health topics. She says it is important to let people know about resources they can access, like abortion pills, despite the ban.

In another video, she said people who have the financial means can afford to get an abortion out of state, but not for those who are poorer.

Lincoln adds that factors like immigration status, especially for undocumented immigrants, will also make it harder for them to travel out of state.

Promoting Public Health via TikTok

Social media advocacy isn’t taught in medical school or residency, but it’s a perfect example of a basic tenet of public health, which is meeting patients where they’re at, Lincoln explains.

“I can sit in front of my patients one on one, till I'm blue in the face but there's no way I could reach as many people as on a social media platform,” she says.

She sees TikTok in particular as a gateway for reaching Gen Z. People in this generation may be seeking answers to reproductive health questions for themselves or engaging in advocacy work to support others who are looking.

“They're not going to get pushed over and they're not going to let people take away their rights,” Lincoln says of Gen Z. “I have a lot of hope in this generation because they are the most open-minded generation we've ever had. So I do think the tide is turning.”

For the most part, her audience appears interested and enthusiastic to engage with her posts on abortion care, though she acknowledges that she may have a following bias.

Still, it always stings when some TikTok users are critical or judgmental towards someone’s decision to have an abortion. She chooses to delete comments that she considers out of line or address them in a separate video to combat misinformation.

“I've said on my platform and I will say to anybody: It’s okay if you do not believe in abortion or support it or you’ve never chosen one, I’m not here to change your mind,” Lincoln says. “But you do need to understand that those are your beliefs and not everybody shares them. You need to stay out of other people's businesses and their uteruses.”

What This Means For You

Some doctors are using social media platforms like TikTok to provide information on abortions and health care and connect people to resources. However, not all TikTokers are reliable sources so it’s always smart to ask your provider specific questions regarding your personal health.

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