Anti-abortion groups take aim at medicated, at-home abortions

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Two leading anti-abortion organizations have successfully lobbyed state legislation to ban abortion or further restrict it. the predominant way pregnancies are ended in the United States — via Drugs taken at home are often assisted by a network promoting abortion rights.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, 14 These drugs, misoprostol and mifepristone, are now banned or partially banned in all 50 states. They are used in more abortions than half of all.

Abortion pills and travel outside of the state are major legal issues.

The drugs are still widely available. There are many organizations that work together to make them available to women even in states where abortion is banned. Students for Life of America (and National Right to Life Committee) have played key roles in creating anti-abortion legislations. They are hoping to change that by introducing new laws. legislation.

The groups are trying to use a range of tactics to stop abortion-inducing drug abuse.

Their strategy is a reflection of the fact that today’s abortion access looks very different to the pre-abortion era.Roe World without easy access from out-of state or overseas pharmacies to abortion drugs

“We knew we couldn’t just go back to pre-Roe laws,” said James Bopp Jr., attorney for National Right to Life. “We knew new approaches were needed.”

Both organizations have long opposed medication abortions, but Students for Life’s legislative efforts did not gain traction until 2021, when Seven states adopted bills that were modeled on legislation created by the group to prevent legal barriers from the group. medications. In In some cases, the laws may also apply. They were banned from colleges’ health clinics. There is a new wave of these ideas expected to be introduced — or reintroduced In statehouses throughout the country when most legislatures reconvene at January.

National Right to Life, meanwhile, released a “model law,” a week before the overturn of Roe v. Wade It seeks to ban a group of non-profit organizations that help women with self-managed abortions. It was first introduced in South Carolina by Republican lawmakers last month.

These efforts show that the anti-abortion fightfront goes beyond traditional legislation seeking criminal penalties for doctors performing surgical abortions in clinics or hospitals. It now targets organizations that provide assistance to women with prescriptions for abortion by mail and safety protocols for self managed abortions.

President of Students for Life Kristan Hawkins also stated that the strategy is evolving because of the increasing use of abortion medications. The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports abortion rights, found the drugs were used in 54 percent of abortions in 2020 — a doubling from 2012 to 2013. As more states adopt abortion restrictions, and more women opt for drugs sent via mail, these numbers will likely rise.

“Reversing RoeWhile it is vital to shut down these brick-and-mortar dangerous facilities, it is only one fight. It’s not the entire battle,” Hawkins said, adding that medication abortions are “the new frontier of abortion.”

These state-level battles, according to abortion advocates, will have a huge impact on rural poor women. They are more likely to be in states that ban abortions, as they don’t have the ability to travel far to get treatment.

“It continues this expansion of the criminal apparatus to address all things related to bodily autonomy with respect to women and people with the capacity for pregnancy,” said Dana Sussman, an attorney and acting director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer foresaw in June that anti-abortion groups would follow a similar path with the repeal of Roe v. Wade. “After this decision, some States may block women from traveling out of State to obtain abortions, or even from receiving abortion medications from out of State,” Breyer wrote in his dissent to the ruling. “Some may criminalize efforts, including provision of information or funding, to help women gain access to other States’ abortion services.”

In anticipation of the Supreme Court decision, Students for Life sent numerous emails in 2021 and 2022 to state lawmakers — obtained by The Washington Post — offering to help them craft antiabortion bills and legislative campaigns. They also told lawmakers that student volunteers were “chomping at the bit” to lobby on their behalf for “hard-hitting legislation” they agreed to sponsor.

In the meantime, Biden’s administration has promised to make sure that abortion medications are available to all. But administration officials are still wrestling with how to deliver on that promise beyond the president’s July 8 executive order that seeks to protect access. Some Democrats, like Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker asked the president for federal authority over the U.S. postal system in order to ensure that no one is prosecuted for receiving or prescribing drugs through the Postal Service.

Anti-abortion organizations have stated repeatedly that they will not penalize people who use medication abortions. “The pro-life movement has not and will not prosecute the women,” Hawkins said.

A Nebraska teenager aged 17 was arrested in July for performing a medical abortion at her house. This was in violation of a law that prohibits terminations of pregnancy after 20 weeks. Prosecutors have stated that she will be tried in adult court. Her mother faces charges as well.

Even when women are not under criminal investigation, abortion rights groups assert that they are still at the centre of police investigations and civil court battles. This is because they are key witnesses.

“We can look to the time before Roe when it typically wasn’t a crime for the person who had the abortion, but they were frequently seized and interrogated,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director of If/When/How, a legal reproductive justice nonprofit. “They were exposed to all of these things that are dehumanizing and humiliating, so it is just an ancillary point that they will not be the subject of a criminal investigation.”

In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration approved Mifepristone to stop an early-term pregnancy. This medication is now approved for use in the first 10 weeks after conception. It causes the uterine membrane to separate and is usually combined with misoprostol which clears the uterus.

Even before Roe Some states punished women who had used drugs.

Idaho authorities interrogated Jennie L. McCormack (32), after she spoke to a friend about ordering mifepristone online. It was used to end a 20-23-week-old, successful pregnancy at home. She was charged under a state law that forbids abortions after 20 week. Self-managed management was also banned abortions.

McCormack, who did not respond to requests for comment, became front-page news in the local newspaper, although charges were later dropped and the law — crafted by National Right to Life — was struck down. “She was fired from her dry cleaning job because customers recognized her and they didn’t want someone like her touching their clothes,” said Richard Hearn, McCormack’s attorney.

After President Donald Trump’s election — with abortion rights newly under threat — an aggressive coalition of groups began helping women like McCormack navigate the process of terminating a pregnancy at home and getting the necessary drugs. Those are the groups Reproaction’s co-founder Erin Matson said that the group has multiplied and unified in recent years. She helped to organize an official coalition called Abortion On Our Own Terms this year.

Anti-abortion leaders have been pushing to close down these groups. National Right to Life calls the coalition an “organized criminal enterprise” in the summary of its model legislation, which seeks to outlaw groups that share information on how to self-administer abortion pills.

Bopp admits that criminal prosecutions under this law may prove difficult due to the fact that many prosecutors across the country have pledged not to pursue cases against women who help end pregnancies. Legal experts say the bill also seeks to criminalize activity — educating women about medication abortions — that is protected by the First Amendment. But Bopp’s bill also includes a provision allowing lawsuits against the groups by intimate partners and family members of women who perform medication abortions.

Kimberly Inez McGuire is the executive director of Unite for Reproductive &.amp; Gender Equity, says the laws are meant to create a “chilling effect” on the groups. “Part of the intention of this law is to sow fear. It is meant to make groups like URGE and the groups that we partner with afraid to do right by our communities,” she said.

Bopp also agreed that civil lawsuits could shut down abortion services. The state’s six-week abortion law was passed in Texas last year. This allowed women to sue anyone who helped them obtain illegal abortions. Clinics all across Texas were forced to close.

“It worked without anyone even having to bring a civil action,” Bopp said of the Texas law. “It stopped abortion.”

Students for Life has a new approach to fundraising To limit or outlaw medication abortion — crafting And supporting bills that limit access to drugs.

The group has successfully lobbied seven bills to pass. Each requires that women visit a physician to receive medications in person. Although the mandates are different from one state to the next, most require a physical examination and a test to determine if the baby is of the right blood type. A follow-up exam after the procedure, as well as a disclosure about safety risks. Many states restrict the use of medications to a specific set of circumstances. Oklahoma, for example, has a ban on the use of medication in pregnancy terminations. pregnancies that resulted from rape or incest — or if the woman’s life is in danger.

The bills also prohibit telehealth appointments.

In some cases, doctors are required to tell their patients that they can potentially reverse the effects of mifepristone and stop the abortion process — something that the American Medication Association has said is “a claim wholly unsupported by the best, most reliable scientific evidence.”

“So many states in the abortion arena have been playing with misinformation like this, relying on the antiabortion movement instead of medical professionals and what the science shows,” said Wendy E. Parmet, co-director of Northeastern University’s Center for Health Policy & Law. “Some states have required physicians say it causes breast cancer — which is also false.”

Students for Life’s ultimate goal is to stop drug access. The group is seeking criminal sanctions for the physicians and organizations that “manufacture, distribute, prescribe, dispense, sell or transfer” the drugs in the state.

If passed, the laws would be most effective in blocking prescriptions made by doctors in states where abortion is still legal — typically through telehealth appointments — to patients who reside in states where medication abortions are banned in all circumstances.

Experts agree that it is unlikely that law enforcers would be allowed into a state to arrest a physician who does not fall under their jurisdiction. However, state medical boards could penalize doctors — including revocation of their medical licenses — if they determined they are not licensed to practice medicine with someone who resides outside their state.

“It’s not as bad as going to prison, but it’s certainly something that no doctors want to have to do — be in a position where they are having to defense their license,” said Hearn, McCormack’s attorney, who is also a physician.

It would be even harder for anti-abortion activists to target overseas doctors and pharmacists who mail the medication into the United States.

Aid Access is an Austria-based organization that typically uses Indian pharmacies. They offer this service for $110 only. Women who can’t afford that pay significantly less, and sometimes nothing at all.

Legal experts said that since states don’t have the authority to ask foreign countries for extradition, the federal government would have to get involved and foreign countries would have to agree.

“As a practical matter, people order medications from outside of the United States all the time — and it’s not technically lawful,” said Diaz-Tello, the legal director of If/When/How. “Imagine trying to interdict the vast number of medications that come into the country everyday.”

The Trump administration unsuccessfully attempted in 2019 to shut down Aid Access’s work in the United States. Women are increasingly turning to the organization to help them as the United States is facing increasing abortion access threats.

A University of Texas study that was published in February by the University of Texas found that Aid Access received almost 38 in the six weeks following Texas’s passage of its abortion ban. requests a day from Texas women — up from nearly 11 Requests increase by one per day. In 49 other states, the number of requests increased slightly during the same time.

“Time and time again, when you outlaw something, you see a shift because the demand hasn’t changed. Self-managed abortions were bound to rise,” said Abigail R.A. Aiken, the lead author of the study.

Students for Life uses provocative language in interviews and on its website. calling medication abortions “the new back alley abortion.”

“They are literally willing to expose women to injury, infertility and death,” said Hawkins, the group’s president, who asserts that medication abortions are more dangerous than surgical abortions.

Anti-abortion and abortion rights groups have cited studies that show that the combination of misoprostol/mifepristone can be safely and effective in between 95 and 97 percent of pregnancies. However, the remaining pregnancies may require medical intervention to end the pregnancy.

In its March abortion care guideline, the World Health Organization stated that medication abortions can be performed at 12 weeks or less. Last year, the FDA removed the requirement for mifepristone to be administered in person at a hospital, clinic, or medical office. It can now be safely sent via the mail.

This report was contributed by Shawn Boburg, and Alice Crites.

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