The Coming War on Abortion Drugs

Medical abortion can be obtained in a number of ways, but typically people make an appointment at their local abortion clinic and are sent home with a bag of pills to take within the next 72 hours.

Leigh was one of those people recently, making the 20-minute drive to a clinic in Washington, D.C., to come home with a handful of abortion pills and Netflix all the way through the abortion from the comfort of their bed. .

“I was grateful that I didn’t have to be in a clinic, that I could be home in familiar surroundings and try to relax as best I could,” they said. (Leigh, who is non-binary, uses a pseudonym for privacy reasons.)

But getting abortion pills from a clinic gets harder and harder depending on where you live.

In recent years, anti-choice lawmakers have stepped up efforts to restrict access to in-person clinical care using targeted regulation of abortion providers, also known as TRAP laws, and other restrictions. medically unnecessary, such as state-mandated waiting. between counseling and getting prescribed pills, required counseling that is not based on science or laws that require people to listen to fetal activity before accessing an abortion. In states like Oklahoma and Texas, which have extreme abortion bans, people are forced to take multi-day trips out of state just to access a handful of abortion pills.

Since in-clinic access has all but disappeared in many red states, some providers have moved online, allowing people in certain states to access abortion pills by mail. States like California, New York, and Colorado allow telehealth for abortion before the 10th week, through online pharmacies like Hi Jane and Abortion on demand. This means that a doctor can virtually prescribe and ship abortion pills right to your doorstep, allowing you to manage your abortion from the comfort of your home.

And it is clear that there is a growing interest in accessing abortion pills from these online pharmacies. Before the Supreme Court’s draft ruling leaked in early May, Elisa Wells, co-founder and co-director of Diet C, an advocacy organization that provides people with information on how to get abortion pills, told HuffPost that its website averages about 2,500 visitors a day. The night the draft decision was leaked, Wells said his website had seen 16,000 visitors. The next day he had 56,000 visitors.

But with greater awareness of the benefits and easy access to abortion pills, there are more attacks from abortion opponents. Anti-weight choice groups like Susan B. Anthony List and Americans United For Life said earlier this year that restricting abortion drugs was a top priority in 2022. Already, 19 states banned the prescription of medical abortion by mail or through virtual telehealth visits.

This year alone, Missouri lawmakers introduced bills that would equate shipping abortion pills with drug trafficking. In Kentucky, lawmakers have created a public database that lists the names of medical abortion providers so people can anonymously report suspected violations of state abortion laws. Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill making it a crime to send a medical abortion through the mail, punishable by a $50,000 fine or up to 20 years in prison – a similar law passed in Texas the last year. And all of the draconian abortion bans in places like Texas, Oklahoma, and Idaho apply to both procedural and medical abortions.

“In the face of these unjust laws and unjust court rulings, here’s what we want people to know: there’s something you can do,” Wells said. “We’ll tell you where to find these pills, how to use them, how to get help, and what you need to know about the landscape surrounding the use of self-directed abortion pills, including the potential legal risk.”

Self-managed abortion in a post-Roe reality

As access to in-clinic abortion and telehealth decreases in red states, some women and people giving birth will prefer to self-manage their own abortions because it’s easier than navigating the ever-growing list of obstacles. And many will simply be forced to manage their abortions themselves because they have no other options.

Fortunately, self-managing your own abortion with medication is a lot like doing it in a clinic or through telemedicine. A self-directed abortion is performed outside of a traditional health care setting, often when a person obtains abortion pills not from a doctor and has an abortion without medical assistance. Because medical abortion is extremely safe and effective, it will ensure that we don’t return to the pre-Roe days of botched abortions that claimed so many lives.

There are several ways to obtain abortion drugs outside of traditional health care settings, including in Mexico, where misoprostol is widely available over the counter. People can also go through Access to aidan Austrian-based nonprofit that prescribes medical abortion by mail in all 50 states.

Aid Access can offer telehealth abortion anywhere in the United States despite specific state restrictions because their provider is based in Austria. This allows the group to circumvent US regulations that penalize providers and prescribe drugs without legal risk. Obtaining abortion pills through Aid Access is not technically characterized as a form of self-managed abortion, as patients are guided through the process by a doctor. But most people who have to go through Aid Access likely face state abortion restrictions or bans.

Managing an abortion outside of traditional health care settings creates certain legal gray areas.

“People have been targeted for the criminalization of self-directed abortion this century in many states where prosecutors wrongfully enforce laws that were never intended to be used against someone to terminate a pregnancy “said Sara Ainsworth, senior director of legal and policy affairs at If/When/How: Reproductive Justice Advocate.

“One of the reasons we understand this is happening is, in addition to political opposition to abortion, there is so much stigma that surrounds abortion in general,” she said. added. “The idea that it must be illegal if someone manages an abortion alone is unfortunately very widespread.”

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