As conservative states in the US rush to ban abortion after a Supreme Court ruling nullified that right at the federal level, the fight over abortion is already shifting to another arena: that of abortion pills.
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Limited in its options, the Biden administration will focus on expanding access to these pills for women living in states where abortion is banned or severely restricted. But it is more than likely that some of these states, as well as powerful conservative groups, will go to court to try to ban their use.
Immediately following Friday’s High Court announcement, the Democratic president urged health officials to ensure abortion pills are available to American women, saying he would “do whatever it takes.” [son] power” to protect the rights of women in states where they would be affected by the decision.
The pills, which can be used up to 10 weeks gestation in the United States, account for half of the abortions in the country.
Demand is expected to continue to rise after a dozen states banned abortion or imposed draconian restrictions, and more are expected to follow.
Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch doctor whose organization sells abortion pills online, believes the situation isn’t as desperate as it was before the Roe v. Wade” in 1973, which guaranteed abortion rights nationwide.
“We cannot prevent abortion pills from being circulated,” she told AFP. “There is therefore always access to a safe abortion if a woman becomes pregnant unintentionally.”
But it’s far from guaranteed, many abortion advocates fear.
The United States Medicines Agency, the FDA, approved the use of these pills about 20 years ago. Last year she authorized them to be sent by mail.
But in pro-abortion states, its use remains a legal gray area and will certainly be the subject of disputes in court.
On Sunday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said medical abortions via telemedicine are “very dangerous medical procedures” and should only be performed under medical supervision.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center working to improve access to contraception and abortion worldwide, 19 states require abortion pills to be administered by a health worker, banning them from being mailed.
And in states that ban all methods of abortion, women could be banned from seeing doctors in another state or abroad on teleconsultation.
In that case, they would have to travel to another state where these appointments would be allowed and receive their envelope at an address outside of their state.
But the obstacles don’t stop there.
A medical abortion is performed in two steps: first with mifepristone, then 24 to 48 hours later with misoprostol to induce labor.
So the question arises: can a woman who is in an anti-abortion state be prosecuted if she gets the first dose elsewhere but the second after returning home?
As progressive states take steps to make abortions easier for women in other parts of the country, conservative states may seek to sue health workers and groups involved in these efforts. And even the patients themselves.
In anticipation of such plans, Attorney General Merrick Garland warned Friday that states could not ban abortion pills because of federal regulations, hinting at a court dispute.