Nearly 21,000 American women have ordered so-called “abortion pills” from a charity that provides such pills in the past six months, The Guardian reports. Three-quarters of those orders came from women in states with strict abortion laws.
Although abortion is technically legal in all 50 states, the reality is that several states have made abortion difficult by writing strict regulatory laws. In some states, for example, laws regulating who can perform abortions have essentially left those states with one, or even zero, abortion clinics. And the laws are getting tighter. In the past few weeks, Alabama, Georgia, and other states have passed so-called “fetal heartbeat” laws that effectively ban all abortions.
To circumvent those laws, women in those states, as well as others, are turning to Aid Access, a charity that provides women, particularly those in jurisdictions with onerous abortion laws, with the abortifacient pills mifepristone and misoprostol, which can end a pregnancy at up to 10 weeks.
In the past six months, Aid Access received 21,000 requests from women in the U.S. Between a third and a half of those requests were approved, and the pills were sent in the mail. The pills come from pharmacies in places such as India.
Most of those requests — three quarters of them — came from states with tight abortion laws. Some of the women told the charity that obtaining an abortion at home was so difficult for them that they were considering “extreme measures” to end their pregnancies, such as consuming alcohol or asking someone to hit them in the abdomen.
Rebecca Gomperts, the founder of Aid Access, said that the fact that women are turning to charitable groups to obtain abortifacient pills paints a grim picture of the status of women’s rights in the U.S.
“The reality on the ground is already so desperate. If a woman cannot access a normal abortion in the US they will do anything to end their pregnancy.”
Is This Legal?
Almost certainly not.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s illegal for Americans to import drugs, any drugs, from foreign pharmacies.
What’s more, in six states (Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, and South Carolina), self-induced abortion is explicitly illegal. However, Self magazine notes that, in those cases, it’s the act of inducing the abortion, not the importation of the abortifacient pills, that’s illegal.
As The New York Times reports, at least one American woman has been convicted and jailed over abortifacient pills. In 2014, Pennsylvania woman Jennifer Whalen was jailed for helping her daughter obtain mifepristone and misoprostol.