- Texas’ heartbeat abortion ban has made it difficult for pregnant women to obtain needed abortion services.
- Additionally, a leaked memo suggests the U.S. Supreme Court may be preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving it to the states to decide the fate of abortion.
- One of the ways people get around the ban is to get abortion drugs online.
- Experts say medical abortions are a safe, FDA-approved method of terminating a pregnancy.
- Organizations such as Plan C and Aid Access may be able to help people obtain safe and inexpensive abortion services, even where restrictive laws exist.
Abortion has long been a controversial issue in America. Since the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion groups fought hard to have the verdict overturned, while pro-choice advocates fought just as hard to protect him.
Over the past year, several states have appeared to make progress in the fight against abortion rights, particularly the state of Texas, which passed a so-called “heartbeat” abortion ban, which prohibits abortion once cardiac activity has been detected, usually around 6 weeks gestation.
The ban is controversial because people often don’t even know they are pregnant until well after 6 weeks pregnant.
More recently, a leaked draft of a majority opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court has raised concerns that it is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision that would leave individual states responsible for deciding whether abortion would be allowed within their borders.
Explaining what this could mean for Americans, Neesha Davé, deputy director of the Lilith Fund, an organization that provides financial aid and emotional support to Texans who need abortions, told the Texas Tribune, “We’ve been through the last eight months in a post-Deer Texas. This has been absolutely devastating for people seeking abortion care…”
The Texas Tribune reports that since the law took effect, there has been a flood of people visiting neighboring states to get abortions as well as people carrying unwanted pregnancies to term.
Additionally, many Texans seeking to terminate their pregnancies have opted for medical abortion via telemedicine.
Medical abortion is performed using two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol.
According to Dr. Emily Godfrey, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Family Planning at the University of Washington, says that mifepristone works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which keeps an early pregnancy from progressing.
Misoprostol is a prostaglandin drug that induces uterine contractions to expel pregnancy.
This treatment regimen has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2000.
Godfrey said the procedure is generally considered safe, with less than 1% of people using it having significant complications.
These types of abortions have increased in recent years, and many people going to clinics for an abortion would be able to choose this type of abortion over a more invasive procedure.
With Texas law in place, people who want to terminate their pregnancies can turn to telemedicine options to get a medical abortion.
Plan C is an advocacy organization that provides people with information on how to get abortion pills.
Godfrey said a medical abortion is appropriate for almost anyone still in their first trimester of pregnancy who has no contraindications to either medication, such as an allergy. It is FDA approved for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
However, anyone taking blood thinners or showing symptoms of a possible ectopic pregnancy should not use them.
People who regularly take steroids or have severe anemia should consult a doctor before having a medical abortion.
Anyone with an IUD should have it removed before taking the pills.
The Plan C website offers several creative suggestions for obtaining a medical abortion. However, the easiest and cheapest method seems to be through an organization called Aid Access.
Aid Access is an online telemedicine service for people who want to perform self-managed medical abortion.
The website provides a help desk and a doctor to answer any questions at any stage of the process.
Godfrey noted that a small number of people might experience complications during a medical abortion, such as prolonged bleeding or cramping or a missed abortion.
If they have heavy bleeding (soaking two towels per hour for more than 2 hours at a time), she said they should see a doctor as soon as possible.
They should also consult a healthcare practitioner if they feel sick, have abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or have a fever above 100.4°F (38°C) for more than 24 hours after using misoprostol.
If a person has continued to bleed for more than 4 weeks after their abortion, they should see a healthcare professional.
If the person has no bleeding after 24 hours of taking the misoprostol pills, they might also consider contacting their doctor, she said.
She did, however, note that statistically, medical abortion pills are about 30 times safer than carrying a pregnancy through childbirth.
Julie Novkov, PhD, JD, professor of political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the University at Albany, SUNY, said that while it’s illegal in Texas to perform medical abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat would make it difficult to enforce the law.
Since the prescriptions come from a doctor based in Europe and are dispatched from a pharmacy in India, she said the execution would raise complicated extradition issues.
Additionally, the law targets abortion providers rather than the person seeking the abortion, she said.
Godfrey agreed, noting that the law specifically exempts the person who has an abortion from being prosecuted.
Plus, she said it would be completely legal if all Texas residents got the pills before they got pregnant.
“It’s important to note,” Godfrey said, “that the notion of providing abortion pills before an event is no different than what doctors do when prescribing an EpiPen to patients who might have severe allergies. a bee sting or antibiotics before international travel.
She added that these pills could be obtained through a service like Aid Access.