Study Tests Sending Women Abortion Pills by Mail

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MANY OF US take for granted the access that we have to the medical assistance that we might need or want at any given time. When it comes to female reproductive rights, though, things are much more complicated. These days, you can purchase the morning-after pill at local pharmacies, but getting an actual abortion, of course, requires heading to a clinic or the hospital. However, a new study is testing out the possibility of sending the abortion pill through the mail.

Someone has dubbed this concept “telabortions,” which seems a little cutesy for an emotionally and physically serious matter, but the concept is an interesting one for women who might not otherwise have the access that they need.

The study is currently taking place in four different states: Hawaii, New York, Oregon, and Washington. The women involved are required to consult with a doctor via online video, and then go to get a blood test and an ultrasound at a nearby clinic. Once they have done that and prove that they’re ready, the pills are overnighted through the mail. The women might then be required to do some follow up tests and talk to the doctor again.

The thinking here is that while most people have access to a clinic where they can get some blood work done… not everyone has access to a place where they could get the abortion pill. Believe it or not, there are still five states that only have a single abortion clinic, and other states where abortions are legal put legal and medical obstacles in the way of women who seek them. For some people, that means getting an abortion would require taking time off from work and traveling somewhere to do it, which is not always a viable option, especially if they don’t have the money or are in a complicated situation with their baby daddy. This is all the more reason to put control in the hands of women.

Of course, taking the abortion pill is not without risks — much like receiving any kind of abortion. The potential side effects include infection and hemorrhage, but it’s important to remember that the risk remains the same whether the pill is received by a doctor in person or accessed through the mail.

The study is essentially waiting to determine the results of the “telemedicine and mail approach” — if it as effective and safe as the traditional approach to medical abortions of going to a clinic and seeing a doctor in-person to receive the pills. If deemed a success and if demand is high, the hope is that the FDA will begin to lift restrictions on mifepristone across the nation, as it is the pill most commonly prescribed for medical abortions. That’s going to be an uphill battle, though, since 19 states currently ban the use of telemedicine for abortions, and both chambers of US Congress will be held by a majority of Republicans for at least the next two years.

Getting the abortion pill through the mail is an option that is already available in Australia, British Columbia, and many other countries all over the world, thanks to organizations like Women On Web. The U.S. has always opted out, since our country is still being run by men who don’t care to help us out. Just kidding. (Am I?) Making the matter even more difficult is the FDA, which doesn’t feel great about people popping pills that are ordered on the Internet.

Although, if we’re being honest, this option sounds a lot more regulated and safer than the other methods that women will have to resort to if the current nationwide trend in declining access to abortion continues.

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