Abortion Ban Could Lead to Rise in Wisconsin Women Seeking Abortion Pills Alone | Local News

If Roe v. Wade is overruled, more Wisconsin women should order abortion pills through the mail and perform their own medical abortions, an alternative to the surgical abortions that are springing up in clinics.

“You’re going to see self-managed medical abortion skyrocket overnight,” said Ingrid Andersson, nurse midwife in Madison and co-founder of Pregnancy Options Wisconsin: Education, Resources and Support, or POWERS, a group that helps people seeking Abortion.

Wisconsin Right to Life also expects more women to get abortion pills in the mail to use on their own, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration facilitated in December, spokeswoman Gracie Skogman said. A Wisconsin law requires providers to dispense drugs in person, but people can circumvent the process by ordering pills from other states or Europe.

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“We are concerned about the increase in the number of women getting medical or chemical abortions through the mail,” Skogman said.

Women who have complications from medical abortions — mostly excessive bleeding that can mimic a miscarriage — sometimes visit the emergency room, making the emergency room an opportunity for potential new regulations sought by abortion opponents.

“We thought, potentially, of strengthening the reporting requirements” in emergencies and similar contexts, Skogman said.

Pro-Life Wisconsin promotes “abortion pill reversal,” or giving the hormone progesterone to women who regret their decision after taking the first of two abortion pills, spokeswoman Anna DeMeuse said. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not support the practice, calling it “unproven.”


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A draft opinion leaked this week suggests the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion. That means an 1849 Wisconsin law banning abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger could go into effect, though the ban would likely face immediate legal challenges.

The new environment could lead more Wisconsin women to abortion clinics in Illinois or Minnesota, where abortions would remain legal, as some already do because those states currently have fewer restrictions. Dr. Douglas Laube, who offers abortions at Planned Parenthood in Madison, said this week that he and other doctors plan to start a clinic in South Beloit to continue offering abortions to women in Wisconsin.

Medical abortions could also become more common. The process involves taking mifepristone, approved by the FDA in 2000 for abortion, with misoprostol a day or two later. Mifepristone stops pregnancy growth by blocking progesterone, and misoprostol causes the uterus to contract to complete the abortion.

Pill abortions accounted for 54% of all abortions nationwide in 2020, up from 39% in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. In Wisconsin, where the Department of Health Services calls the abortion process “chemically induced,” the method accounted for 39% of all abortions in 2020, up from 21% in 2017.


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Overall, Wisconsin recorded 6,430 abortions in 2020, down from 6,511 in 2019 and a reported peak of 17,986 in 1988.

Under the table?

Laube said that if Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban goes into effect, some doctors might continue to supply abortion pills “covertly.” Wisconsin is one of 19 states where physicians must be physically present when administering medication, which means the interaction cannot take place via telehealth.

In states without such laws, the FDA said in December that the pills could be provided permanently via telehealth, a move that had previously been temporarily allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that women in states with a telehealth abortion ban can travel to any location in other states to receive pills, according to the New York Times.


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People can also order the pills through groups such as Aid Access, run by Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts. European doctors prescribe the pills, which are shipped from a pharmacy in India, according to the group’s website.

Self-managed medical abortions give women an option they didn’t have before Roe v. Wade, even though it circumvents some state laws, Andersson said. Procedures are not counted in official abortion reports. A medical journal study led by Gomperts last year, which called the process “safe and effective”, reported more than 57,000 requests for the pills from the US via Aid Access as of March 2018 to March 2020.

“It’s a safe option,” Andersson said. “It’s not a 100% legal option, no.”

POWERS, which supports abortion, adoption, and babysitting mothers, makes “abortion doulas” available to women undergoing medical abortions at home. Those experiencing worrisome bleeding are encouraged to visit Planned Parenthood clinics for medical assistance, Andersson said.


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Some “unfriendly” emergency providers or first responders might be “suspicious” of the women’s symptoms, wondering if the bleeding is from a miscarriage or a medical abortion, she said.

Support offered

Skogman of Wisconsin Right to Life said some medical abortion providers tell women to say they are having miscarriages. “We are very concerned that they openly ask women to lie when they necessarily seek medical attention,” she said.

Strengthening reporting requirements in emergencies could help remedy the situation, she said.

Skogman said the organization plans to educate women about the risks of medical abortion and work to strengthen assistance, such as emergency housing subsidies, for women facing difficult pregnancies.

“We want to focus on supporting these women so they don’t feel the need to turn to abortion pills in the mail or cross state lines to Illinois to get an abortion,” said she declared.

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