Missouri Turns to Internet for Abortion Drugs Despite Ban | Missouri News | Saint Louis

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Residents of states with strict abortion bans are turning to online pharmacies for abortion pills.


This story was supported by the Reproductive Rights Reporting Fund of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. WadeWeb traffic to Elisa Well’s online abortion drug locator has increased significantly.

The site she co-founded, Plan Chelps connect people to online pharmacies where abortion pills are sold.

“The day before the announcement, we had 3,400 visitors to our website,” says Wells. “On the day of the announcement, we had 209,000.”

As states similar to Missouri restrict or ban abortion access outright, legal experts and choice advocates say more people will turn to medical abortions. The pills cost less than traveling to states where abortion is legal and, depending on location, can be fairly easy to access.

But although Missouri has banned abortion with only one exception (unspecified medical emergencies), Missouri residents can still access medical abortion online with a few strategic maneuvers.

Abortion drugs generally refer to a two-pill regimen that terminates a pregnancy. Mifepristone prevents the growth of an embryo or fetus. Misoprostol, taken a day or two after mifepristone, empties the uterus. The Federal Food and Drug Administration authorizes drugs for pregnancies up to 10 weeks.

“Abortion pills are safe and effective, even if you use them yourself without medical supervision,” says Wells. “They are available in all 50 states – even states that have regulations prohibiting them. They are available through other access routes.

Buy pills online

Well’s website, Plan C, offers an in-depth state-by-state search to help locate abortion pill suppliers. Wells and her team tested the delivery from each supplier listed in Plan C, then lab tested all the drugs they received, she says. Each provider’s medications listed on the Plan C website all offer legitimate and safe abortion medications.

Plan C directs Missouri residents to several online pharmacies and a website called Access to aid, an online-only service run by a team of European doctors who prescribe abortion drugs to Americans. They mainly ship pills from a pharmacy in India.

To receive pills from online pharmacies and states that allow telehealth, some abortion seekers have used “virtual mailboxes,” says Wells.

Through websites such as iPost1 and Mail PostScan, users can create virtual mailboxes in states where abortion is legal. For example, abortion seekers can pay $15 per month to use the PostScan Mail address in Swansea, Illinois. Once the pills arrive, PostScan Mail allows users to forward the contents of their mailbox to any address.

This way, an abortion seeker can give telehealth providers an address where it is legal to send medications and receive the medications without traveling. Virtual mailbox websites are common among travelers or small business owners who don’t want to use their home address. They usually cost less than $30 in monthly fees.

Traveling to Paradise States

Traveling to a state where abortion is legal remains the legally safest option for residents of trigger states, according to Farah Diaz-Tello, senior attorney and legal director for the legal advocacy group If/When/How.

“People who have the ability to travel to another state are better protected from legal risk than people who self-manage,” Diaz-Tello says.

Consulting abortion medication via telehealth is not legal in Missouri. Patients at Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights, Illinois must be in good condition at the time of their telehealth visit, and Planned Parenthood asks patients to confirm this.

Traveling out of state is the most financially burdensome and often impossible option for the most marginalized, but several Missouri organizations provide resources for those interested.

The Missouri Abortion Fund has partnerships with abortion clinics in the St. Louis, Illinois area to help cover the costs of abortions performed there.

The day after deerabortion providers are working to bring more options closer to people living in restricted states.

just the pill, a medical abortion provider with clinics in four states, plans to set up mobile clinics near abortion-ban states. Each mobile clinic offers telehealth consultations and delivers medication.

The organization recently launched two mobile clinics in Colorado, and a Just the Pill spokesperson told the RFT he is working to bring a clinic in Missouri closer together.

“We are currently fundraising for our second fleet in Illinois,” says Kathryn Mavengere. “We plan to expand and add more clinics year after year. »

According to Diaz-Tello, state law does not prohibit traveling across state lines to clinics like these or Planned Parenthood. However, she and other legal experts worry that ambiguous abortion laws similar to those in Missouri could be used to target abortion seekers.

“Once a prosecutor decides they want to punish someone for having an abortion, they will find a way to do it despite what the law says,” Diaz-Tello says.

She continues: “The concern is that as the scrutiny of abortion intensifies and abortion is treated as a criminal matter, whether or not the pregnant woman is the intended target of the law, is likely that she [going] to be drawn into criminal proceedings.

Missouri legality

As widely interpreted now, Missouri Law does not punish people who have abortions. Only those who “perform or induce” an abortion risk a Class B felony charge.

However, legal experts wonder whether those who take abortion drugs and therefore cause their own abortions could be punished by law.

“The trigger law states that a woman should not be prosecuted for a ‘conspiracy’ related to an illegal abortion,” says Sidney Watson, health law expert and professor at Saint Louis University. “However, there are other crimes, such as aiding and abetting abortion.”

Last week, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt clarified some ambiguity in Missouri abortion law. A spokesperson for his office said the law does not prohibit the use or provision of Plan B or contraception, although there is no mention of abortion drugs.

Missourians could wait and see how the law is interpreted, Watson says, or alternatively, “The Attorney General could issue a notice that makes it clear that the women will not be prosecuted, which would be very helpful.”

Even before Missouri’s near-total abortion ban, the state did not allow telemedicine abortion care.

During the pandemic, the FDA temporarily waived its in-person requirement for mifepristone. The lifted restriction allowed providers to prescribe abortion pills remotely.

Yet Missouri and at least a dozen other states never followed suit. State law enacted in 2013 required that patients be in the same room and “in the physical presence” of the doctors who provided the abortion drugs.

Watson says it would be difficult to sue online abortion pill providers that continue to serve Missourians, such as Aid Access.

“This website is still operational, in part because doctors in Europe don’t feel they are at particular legal risk of being sued in the United States,” Watson says. “It would be very, very difficult to prosecute doctors operating outside the United States”

Online pharmacies have apparently not been deterred by the legal risks. When asked if any online pharmacies have stopped serving restrictive states out of legal fear, Wells said she’s seen the opposite reaction.

“They see the need for it, and a lot of people want to help and get around this real injustice,” Wells says.

To navigate this legal landscape, Diaz-Tello’s If/When/How website offers a Legal Helpline, where attorneys answer abortion-related legal questions and provide legal representation if needed.

Abortion restrictions are meant to confuse, says Diaz-Tello. But she wants pregnant women seeking abortions to know that they are not alone.

“This moment is extremely scary for many of us, but there is help out there,” she adds. “People will continue to need abortions and people will continue to support those who need abortions. I don’t want anyone who is pregnant and needs an abortion to feel alone because it is not.

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