Instagram and Facebook | Meta removes posts offering abortion pills

(Washington) Facebook and Instagram have begun swiftly removing posts offering abortion pills to women who may not have access to them, after a US Supreme Court ruling nullified constitutional rights to the procedure.

Posted at 11:02 p.m

Amanda Seitz
Associated Press

Social media posts have surfaced as the High Court overturned Roe v Wade, a 1973 decision that declared access to abortion a constitutional right. They are apparently aimed at helping women living in states where existing abortion laws suddenly went into effect on Friday.

Memes and posts explaining how women can legally receive abortion pills in the mail have exploded on social media platforms. Some have even offered to mail prescriptions to women living in states that now ban the procedure.

Almost immediately, Facebook and Instagram began removing some of these posts, just as millions of people across the United States were trying to clarify access to abortion.

General mentions of abortion pills, as well as posts referring to specific variants such as mifepristone and misoprostol, piled up Friday morning across Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and TV shows, according to analysis by news outlet Zignal Labs media.

As of Sunday, Zignal Labs had counted more than 250,000 such mentions.

Problems applying a policy

The Associated Press (AP) on Friday obtained a screenshot of an Instagram post of a woman offering to buy or mail abortion pills, minutes after the court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.

“(direct message me) if you want to order abortion pills but want them shipped to my address instead of yours,” the Instagram read.

Instagram deleted it within moments. Vice Media first reported Monday that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, removed posts about abortion pills.

On Monday, an AP reporter tested the company’s response with a similar post on Facebook, writing, “If you send me your address I will send you abortion pills.” The post was deleted within a minute.

The Facebook account was immediately put on a “Warning” status for the post, which Facebook said violated its standards on “guns, animals and other regulated property.”

Yet when the AP reporter did exactly the same news but replaced the words “abortion pills” with “a gun,” the news remained intact. A message was also left with the exact same offer to send “cannabis” and was not considered a violation.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law and it is illegal to ship it.

However, abortion pills can be legally obtained through the mail after online consultation with prescribers who have undergone certification and training.

In an email, a Meta spokesperson pointed out company policies that prohibit the sale of certain items, including firearms, alcohol, drugs and pharmaceuticals. The company has not explained the apparent discrepancies in the application of this policy.

Meta spokesman Andy Stone confirmed in a tweet Monday that the company will not allow individuals to offer or sell medicines on its platform, but will allow content that shares information on how to access the pills. Mr. Stone acknowledged some issues with enforcing this policy across his platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

“We have identified cases of misapplication and are correcting them,” Stone said in a tweet.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that states should not ban mifepristone, the drug used to induce abortions.

“States cannot ban mifepristone because they disagree with the FDA’s expert judgment on its safety and efficacy,” Garland said in a statement Friday.

But some Republicans have already tried to prevent their residents from receiving abortion pills in the mail, with some states, such as West Virginia and Tennessee, banning professionals from prescribing the drug through telemedicine consultation.

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