It took two trips over state lines, navigating icy roads and a patchwork of state laws, for a 32-year-old South Dakota woman to get abortion pills last year.
For abortion-seekers like her, such journeys, along with pills sent through the mail, would grow in importance if the US Supreme Court follows through with its leaked draft opinion that would overturn the landmark Roe v Wade decision and allow individual states to ban the procedure.
The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was concerned for her family’s safety, said the abortion pills allowed her to end an unexpected and high-risk pregnancy, and remain devoted to her two children.
However, anti-abortion activists and politicians say those cross-border trips, remote doctors’ consultations and pill deliveries are what they will try to stop next.
“Medication abortion will be where access to abortion is decided,” said Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University College of Law who specializes in reproductive rights. “That’s going to be the battleground that decides how enforceable abortion bans are.”
Use of abortion pills has been rising in the US since 2000 when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved mifepristone — the main drug used in medication abortions. More than half of US abortions are now done with pills, rather than surgery, said the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
The FDA last year lifted a long-standing requirement that women pick up abortion pills in person. Mail delivery is also now allowed nationwide.
Those moves have spurred online services that offer information on getting abortion pills and consultations to get a prescription.
After the woman in South Dakota found that the state’s only abortion clinic could not schedule her in time for a medication abortion, she found an online service, called Just The Pill, that advised her to drive across to Minnesota for a phone consultation with a doctor. A week later, she came back to Minnesota for the pills.
She took the first one almost immediately in her car, then cried as she drove home.
“I felt like I lost a pregnancy,” she said. “I love my husband and I love my children, and I knew exactly what I had to say goodbye to and that was a really horrible thing to have to do.”
South Dakota is among several states, including Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, Tennessee and Oklahoma, where Republicans have moved to restrict access to abortion pills in recent months.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said additional, in-person visits for the pills and a ban on them being sent through the mail are needed to protect women and save “unborn children.”
A total of 19 states require a medical clinician to be physically present when abortion pills are given to a patient.
Besides crossing state lines, women can also turn to internationally based online pharmacies, said Greer Donley, a professor specializing in reproductive healthcare at the University of Pittsburgh Law School.
Some women are also having prescribed pills forwarded through states without restrictions.
“It allows for someone to have an abortion without a direct role of a provider. It’s going to be much harder for states to control abortion access,” she said. “The question is how is it going to be enforced?”
Sue Leibel, state policy director for Susan B. Anthony List, a prominent organization opposed to abortion, said it is an issue that “has crept up” on Republican state lawmakers.
“This is a new frontier and states are grappling with enforcement mechanisms,” she said
“The advice that I always give — if you shut the front door, the pills are going to come in the back door,” she added.
Abortion opponents maintain they have no intention of prosecuting women who seek abortions.
Instead, Leibel suggested the next target for state enforcement should be the pharmacies, organizations and clinics that provide the abortion pills. She also said abortion-rights opponents should focus on electing a presidential candidate who would work to reverse the FDA’s decision.
The FDA said a scientific review supported broadening access to the drugs and found complications were rare.
The agency has reported 26 deaths associated with the drug since 2000, although not all of those can be directly attributed to the medication due to existing health conditions and other factors.
However, with new legal battles on the horizon and abortion seekers going to greater lengths to obtain the procedure, Donley worried that state lawmakers might eventually turn their attention toward the women who get the pills.
“Many anti-abortion legislators might realize the only way to enforce these laws is to prosecute the pregnant person themselves,” she said.
‘EATING UP SPRING’: Temperatures are 10oC to 15oC above the seasonal average and a city northwest of Madrid experienced its first ‘tropical’ May night on Friday Parts of Spain are experiencing their hottest May since records began, as a mass of hot, dry air blows in from Africa, bringing with it dusty skies and temperatures of more than 40°C. Spain’s state meteorological agency, Aemet, has warned of a weekend heat wave of an “extraordinary intensity,” with temperatures between 10°C and 15°C above the seasonal average and more akin to high summer than mid-May. “The early hours of 21 May have been extraordinarily hot for the time of year across a good part of the center and south of the peninsula,” Aemet said on Saturday. “In many places the
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Thousands of people were forcibly removed from their homes in the dead of night and all mentions of the incident were scrubbed from the Internet Thousands of COVID-19-negative Beijing residents were forcibly relocated to quarantine hotels overnight due to a handful of infections, as the Chinese capital begins to take more extreme control measures resembling virus-hit Shanghai. Beijing has been battling its worst outbreak since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has infected more than 1,300 since late last month, leading city restaurants, schools and tourist attractions to be closed indefinitely. China’s strategy to achieve zero COVID-19 cases includes strict border closures, lengthy quarantines, mass testing and rapid, targeted lockdowns. More than 13,000 residents of the locked-down Nanxinyuan residential compound in southeast Beijing were
‘I’M STUNNED’: The disease is not known to be sexually transmitted, but a large outbreak might reveal previously unknown transmission routes, a virologist said Scientists who have monitored numerous outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa say they are baffled by the disease’s recent spread in Europe and North America. Cases of the smallpox-related disease have previously been seen only among people with links to central and West Africa. However, in the past week, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the US, Sweden, Canada all reported infections, mostly in young men who had not previously traveled to Africa. There are about 80 confirmed cases worldwide and 50 more suspected ones, the WHO said. France, Germany, Belgium and Australia reported their first cases on Friday. “I’m stunned by this. Every day I
INTERVENTION: A source said that a border patrol agent had rushed into the school without waiting for backup and killed the teen gunman, who was behind a barricade An 18-year-old man on Tuesday opened fire at a Texas elementary school, killing at least 19 children as he went from classroom to classroom, officials said. The attacker was killed by law enforcement. The death toll also included two adults, authorities said. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that one of the two was a teacher. The assault at Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde was the deadliest shooting at a US school since a man killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. Outside the town civic center, where families were told to await news