Thursday, September 21

Abortion pills, the new trench in the US after the Supreme Court ruling

New York



‘You only prohibit safe abortion’, read some of the banners in the hundreds of protests that have spread throughout the US since last Friday the Supreme Court repealed the constitutional protection of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. It was a distilled form of a message that activists in favor of abortion rights repeat: the ban on the practice – which has already materialized in nine states after the ruling and will end with strong restrictions in half the country – will not prevent happen. Women who wish to have an abortion in states where it is or will be prohibited they will have to travel to other territories or find a way – even if it is less safe – to do it where they live.

In this scenario, much of the attention is focused on the abortion pillsa method for the termination of pregnancy that has gained a lot of weight in recent years in the US.

and that it is expected to do so much more given the new legal configuration of abortion in the country.

It’s practiced with two drugs -mifepristone and misoprostol-, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized for use between seven and ten weeks of gestation. The former stops the development of the pregnancy, while the latter causes contractions and expulsion of the fetus.

Nowadays, over 90% of abortions in the first thirteen weeks of gestation they are practiced with these drugs. Its use has exploded in recent years: according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization in favor of abortion rights, in 2020 medical abortions accounted for 52% of the total, up from 37% in 2017.

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It is very likely that the pandemic has increased that percentage even more – especially after the FDA last year allowed medical supervision and prescription of the pills to be made with online consultations– and that it does so even more in view of the panorama that opens up in the US after the decision of the Supreme Court. As soon as they met, several organizations that provide these treatments online and send the pills by mail say that the demand had multiplied.

In the nine states where the abortion ban has already gone into effect, termination of pregnancy with pills will also be illegal. And it is expected that something similar will happen in the rest of the states that are going to restrict access. In fact, there are already 19 states that, before the rulingthey have prohibited telemedicine consultations to make it difficult to prescribe pills. In others, like Texas, these drugs have been banned from being sent through the mail. In South Dakota, a law was passed in March requiring a woman seeking an abortion to attend three medical appointments in person. The norm is blocked in court, but has been advanced by the ban that came into force for all abortions with the sentence. Its governor, Republican Kristi Noem -an emerging star of the party, even with some presidential aspirations-, assured that she will present a plan to prevent medical abortion from being practiced in her state, where doctors or organizations that distribute.

In these banning or restricting states, women are not persecuted, but the consequences for those who perform or facilitate abortions can be serious: in Missouri, even fifteen years in prison.

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battle ahead

It is still early to see how the prohibitions will materialize and what avenues will remain for women who want to abort. Ahead there will be dozens of legal fights between states in favor of restricting abortion, states and organizations that seek to protect access, and the federal government. The courts -and, ultimately, the Supreme Court- will have to define the definitive formulation of that access, but for the moment the Biden Administration has ensured that will fight so that women can receive those pills and that abortion be “widely accessible.”

The attorney general, Merrick Garland, assured after the sentence that the Department of Justice “will work with the rest of the branches of the federal government to use its legal authority in the protection and preservation of access to reproductive health,” he said in a statement in the which detailed that abortion pills are authorized by the FDA and that states they can’t ban them “based on a disagreement with the FDA’s expert decision on its safety and efficacy.”

One of the options that aims to grow is the shipment of pills from abroad. Aid Access, an organization based in the Netherlands, has been doing this for years, sending to women in states with little access to abortion. Regardless of the final legal configuration, it will be much more difficult to sue doctors and entities that send drugs from abroad.

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