American states say they don't know how to approach American women who buy abortion pills from online foreign suppliers.
This year, nine American states with republican-driven legislators adopted new restrictions on abortions, ranging from a six-week ban to a ban unless the health of the mother is at risk.
In 2018, more than 20,000 American women sought the pills online from providers who were willing to defy US federal rules on selling drugs that cause miscarriage.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has imposed strict rules for the distribution and use of abortion pills, but state pharmaceutical regulators have stated that they have no effective way to track and control online orders from foreign doctors and pharmacies.
Between March 2018 and March 2019, nearly 21,000 American women purchased abortion pills – many of which have not been approved by the FDA – online from foreign doctors and pharmacists. Pictured: a pharmacist with pills of the drug Misoprostol in his hand at a pharmacy in Provo, Utah
One of the women who has purchased such pills online is Kayla, a 24-year-old Mississippi mother of two who ended a pregnancy in January.
She and her husband decided that they could not afford to raise another child and not get an abortion at the nearest clinic in Memphis, Tennessee.
& # 39; I would not know what to do if I could not access it & said, "Kayla asked to be identified by her first name only. & # 39; I would probably be six months pregnant and miserable now. It was my lifesaver. & # 39;
Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in the US. Opponents cite religious beliefs about the sanctity of life, while abortion rights activists say that bans deprive women of control of their bodies and future.
Despite the strict rules for selling abortion pills, pharmacy boards across the country say they have no way to reliably follow orders from foreign doctors.
& # 39; We would only know that if someone would report it to us & # 39 ;, said Larry Hadley, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy.
Pharmacy drivers in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio also said they were unaware of the shipment of the drugs by non-licensed foreign providers or how they would take action against them.
ABORTIONS BILLS DURING 2019
PROHIBITED UNLESS THE HEALTH OF A WOMAN AT RISK
BANNED AFTER SIX EIGHT WEEKS (KNOWN AS THE & # 39; HEARTBEAT & # 39; ACCOUNTS):
- Kentucky (currently blocked)
- Mississippi (currently blocked)
- Ohio (being challenged)
PROHIBITED AFTER 18 TO 22 WEEKS:
- Utah (currently blocked)
Source: Guttmacher Institute, NPR
Between March 2018 and March 2019, approximately 21,000 American women sought the abortion-inducing pills misoprostol and mifepristone from the Austria-based website AidAccess.org, according to a University of Texas at Austin study.
AidAccess founder Dr. Rebecca Gomperts received a letter from the FDA in March warning her to stop prescribing abortion pills. She has ignored it.
& # 39; I am responding to an urgent medical need from my patients & # 39 ;, said Dr. Gomperts. & # 39; I have a medical duty to do that and I do it. & # 39;
The abortion pills are usually priced at a fraction of the hundreds of dollars for an abortion in the clinic. Dr. Gomperts occasionally sees the costs for women who cannot afford it.
& # 39; It is reasonable to expect that as states make it even more difficult for people to access clinic-based abortion care, more people are looking for alternatives, including self-managed abortion, & # 39 ;, says Jill Adams, executive director of reproductive rights, legal group If / When / How.
In another measure of growing interest, PlanCPills.org, a website that assesses the safety of online pill providers, reports that the number of visitors has risen to 8,000 people a day, against a background of around 1,000 in the last few months.
The FDA has sent warning letters to foreign online providers, threatening attacks and orders unless they stop selling the abortion pills to American women.
& # 39; We remain very concerned … because this goes beyond important precautions to protect women's health & # 39 ;, said an FDA spokesperson in an email.
But some medical experts describe the FDA prescriptions of these drugs as excessive because they say they pose a relatively low health risk and cause far fewer deaths in American women than in natural childbirth.
There is currently only one FDA approved product, which is usually used in the first trimester of pregnancy.
The drug dilutes the cervical mucus layer to prevent the embryo from remaining implanted and causing the uterus to contract, causing miscarriage.
However, if women want to take the pill, the FDA must deliver it to a medical office, clinic or hospital.
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