Utahns Guide to Medical Abortion, Plan B

Abortion access may soon change in Utah, according to the US Supreme Court ruling this summer.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hundreds of protesters march down State Street after a protest organized by the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in response to a leaked draft opinion from the United States Supreme Court- United that could possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark abortion case from 1973.

If the United States Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and Utah’s trigger law goes into effect, medical abortions would be restricted the same as in-clinic surgical abortions.

Currently, abortion pills are generally available early in a pregnancy, up to 11 weeks, according to Dr. David Turok, an obstetrician/gynecologist practicing in Salt Lake City.

“Efficacy depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy while taking the drug,” according to Planned Parenthood website.

A medical abortion involves two drugs: mifepristone, which is taken first, followed by misoprostol.

Mifepristone “blocks your body’s progesterone, preventing pregnancy from developing”, according to Family Planning. Then misoprostol, which can be taken up to 48 hours later, “causes cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus.”

“The same pills used for abortion are also used to treat miscarriages and these are provided in many hospitals across the state,” Turok said.

Here’s an overview of how and when Utahns can get the abortion pill and emergency contraception.

Medical abortion

To obtain a medical abortion, Utahns must go in person to a medical provider and follow all requirements outlined in state law, including the mandatory 72-hour waiting period, going through the online information module and a face-to-face consultation to provide informed consent.

“You can get face-to-face informed consent anywhere in the state from any licensed provider, including doctors, nurses, and social workers. All Planned Parenthood Health Centers in Utah can provide ‘informed consent’ to women who are considering terminating their pregnancies,” according to Planned Parenthood Association of Utah website.

Medical abortions are available at three Planned Parenthood Association of Utah locations — Metro Health Center, Salt Lake Health Center and Logan Health Center — and Wasatch Women’s Center in Salt Lake City. (In-clinic surgical abortions are only available at Metro Health Center and Wasatch Women’s Center. Private doctors also offer abortions.)

If Roe v. Wade is canceled and states add restrictions on abortion access, more people may try to get abortion pills in the mail, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

“Many Republican legislatures have tried to ban the shipping or prescription of the pills,” the Post reported. “But some women have been able to get around the restrictions by getting their pills online from foreign pharmacies that cannot be reached by US laws.”

Emergency contraception

The morning after pill, like Plan B or ella, is not a medical abortion. It’s emergency contraception.

Which morning after pill a person should use depends on their weight and the time since they had unprotected sex, among other factors. For example, Plan B may not work if you weigh 155 pounds or more, according to Planned Parenthood.

Some IUDs can also be used for emergency contraception. Family planning offers more information about these options on its website.

Utahans can go to Planned Parenthood to get Plan B. It’s also available at Utah pharmacies without a prescription.

[Read: Here’s where Utahns can go if abortions are banned in the Beehive State.]

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America body member and writes about the status of women in Utah for the Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps him keep writing stories like this; please consider making a tax deductible donation of any amount today by clicking here.

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