The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday it is investigating a Dutch company that sends abortion-inducing drugs to U.S. women by mail from a pharmacy in India.
Aid Access, founded by Dutch abortionist Rebecca Gomperts, is the most recent iteration of her mission to bring abortions to countries with pro-life policies. Gomperts started Women on Waves in 1999, which conducted chemical abortions aboard a boat parked in international waters outside countries where abortion was illegal, including Morocco, Spain, and Ireland. (Ireland voted in May to legalize abortion.) It later became Women on Web when Gomperts began sending chemical abortion pills through the mail.
Gomperts calls her work a “moral obligation” to women seeking abortion, claiming she has prescribed the pills for 600 women in the United States out of more than 3,000 who have requested the drugs through Aid Access. The group charges $95 for the pills and offers assistance to those who cannot pay.
The FDA said in a statement Tuesday it is working “to assess potential violations of U.S. law.” The agency regulates the dispensing of mifepristone and misoprostol, the drug duo that works together to end an unborn baby’s life and send the mother into labor. Despite loosening restrictions on the drugs in 2016, the FDA still requires a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner and says that women must ingest the first pill at a medical facility.
A few states have started allowing telemedicine abortions, in which women receive the pills in the mail, but the FDA warns against buying the pills online and from foreign sources.
Rebecca Oas, associate director of research for the Center for Family and Human Rights, said regulations exist to protect women from complications due to the drugs themselves and abuse from other people. “If you’re shipping the pills, you don’t know if the person ordering them is a person trying to obtain an abortion or perhaps a pimp, or a father, or a husband, boyfriend, whatever, who wants to induce an abortion and wants the woman to have a miscarriage without her consent,” she told me.
In addition, the drugs carry the risk of hemorrhage, infection, and death. Aid Access warns women on its website that it cannot even guarantee the pills will effectively kill their baby, and tells them to see a doctor if they experience allergic reactions or other complications.
Catherine Glenn Foster, CEO of Americans United for Life, told CNN that Aid Access was “reckless and irresponsible,” and that for women, “engaging in chemical abortion … is like playing Russian roulette with their health, because an unsuccessful chemical abortion may lead to a far riskier surgical one.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a statement that shipping the drugs to women from overseas is “a disaster waiting to happen,” adding, “Risking women’s lives to make a political point and a quick profit makes no sense, and we sadly anticipate horror stories when, inevitably, something goes wrong.”
It’s unclear what the FDA can do about Aid Access’ practice—Gomperts contends everything she does is perfectly legal.
Oas said that the rise of Aid Access is a “hedge” against the possible overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide: “It’s a technique that’s been tried and tested overseas, so it’s something that is certainly not a surprise, but it’s certainly something that we have to watch, and make sure that our government and our policies are in place to deal with this.”