The number of women attempting to reverse the effects of the abortion pill and save their babies’ lives doubled in March and April, according to Heartbeat International’s Abortion Pill Rescue Network.
“In 2019, we averaged about 51 reversal starts each month,” said Christa Brown, a director at Heartbeat. “In March, there were 108, and in April there were 104.”
Women who call the Abortion Pill Rescue hotline have taken mifepristone, the first of two pills used in chemically induced abortions. Some regret their decision immediately.
“Many of their calls are in the abortion business’s parking lot or right after they get home,” Brown said. “We’re seeing that about 80 percent of our callers [during the pandemic] actually start reversal. It used to be about 50 percent.”
The increased number of callers to the hotline parallels the increased use of the abortion pill under coronavirus closures and stay-at-home orders. The abortion industry has been shifting toward so-called “medical” abortions for years. The heightened financial stress on women and fears about limited access to surgical abortions during the pandemic have given the industry the perfect opportunity to push the pills—even ignoring safety measures in the process.
“The pandemic has added a lot of pressures for our clients,” Brown said. “If they haven’t lost their jobs, maybe their income has decreased … their living conditions are crowded.”
Some state governments have ordered abortion businesses to halt the elective procedure to save personal protective equipment for essential medical care. In other states, abortion facilities have closed because of strains on finances and other resources.
Those limits on surgical abortions, along with more people wanting to stay at home, have turned women toward illegal online sellers of abortion pills. The sites deliver the pills directly to homes without the women first obtaining an ultrasound or getting the guidance of a physician.
According to Brown, the Abortion Pill Rescue hotline also has seen an uptick in the number of women taking the pill without physician guidance. “If [a woman] has an ectopic pregnancy,” she said, “that can be dangerous for her.”
Dr. Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that without the help of a physician or an ultrasound, women might face hemorrhaging, infections, incomplete abortions, or other complications with no one qualified to help them. To protect against those problems, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires abortionists to prescribe the drugs and to dispense them only at medical facilities.
Some abortionists have challenged those safety measures by expanding their remote services during the pandemic. Before the coronavirus, some providers participated in a so-called clinical trial that allowed them to send abortion pills in the mail. The program known as TelAbortion is now in 13 states. During March and April, it helped twice as many women obtain abortions than in the previous two months, The New York Times reported.
The program’s website gives a nod to the FDA guidelines, mentioning that participants should obtain applicable tests such as an ultrasound before taking the drugs. But the abortion industry would like to get rid of those requirements. During the pandemic, 21 pro-abortion state attorneys general wrote to the FDA requesting the federal government waive the risk evaluation and mitigation strategy for the abortion pill. Even before the coronavirus, groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists took a stance against the FDA’s protection of women, calling the restrictions an unnecessary limit on access to abortion.
In a strategic step, Gynuity Health Projects, one sponsor of TelAbortion, rolled out protocols for eliminating in-person interactions for women wanting to get the abortion pills. Gynuity disguised it as an attempt to serve women during the coronavirus outbreak but acknowledged it wants the relaxed standards to continue after the pandemic.
“We expect that the no-test approach will continue to be beneficial after the epidemic ends by decreasing cost and enhancing convenience and comfort of medical abortion and by facilitating new service delivery approaches that can increase access to this essential health care,” according to Gynuity’s website.
With those protocols for limited contact, Harrison said abortionists are telling women, “You’re on your own. And, if something happens, you figure it out.”