Requests to online abortion pill mill go up
Study finds more women calling groups like Aid Access during pandemic
A Dutch website that illegally sells the abortion pill to women in the United States saw a 27 percent increase in requests between March 20 and April 11, according to a recent study from the University of Texas. The study said the website normally would receive 2,638 requests in that timeframe but instead had 3,343.
The most significant increases happened in states with high rates of COVID-19 or where authorities included abortion on a list of nonessential medical procedures to cancel, often triggering legal battles. A few exceptions: Alabama, Arkansas, and Iowa all had to go to court to defend their coronavirus safety rules for abortion, but none of them saw a significant uptick in requests for abortion pills. And some states with the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases such as New York and California were among the most permissive in allowing abortion facilities to stay open.
Texas saw the biggest hike in pill requests, totaling 787 over the three-week time span—a 94 percent increase over what was expected. The state would not allow most surgical abortions from March 23 until April 22 because of concerns about preserving supplies and equipment for fighting the pandemic.
The pills, purchased illegally from the website of the group Aid Access, put women at risk of severe complications with no medical oversight. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Aid Access more than a year ago to stop “the introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded and unapproved new drugs.” But the FDA has still taken no action against the sites, and earlier this month a federal judge waived the FDA rules for legal distribution of abortion pills during the pandemic.
The number of calls to Heartbeat International’s Abortion Pill Hotline doubled in March and April, paralleling this increase in drug-induced abortions during the pandemic. Other pro-life organizations also saw more requests for help. At the beginning of March, pregnancy helpline the Human Coalition received about 200 calls a day. By the end of the month, it was taking anywhere from 500 to 700 daily. Many of the women would call them mistakenly to request information about abortion.
“They have a sense of urgency that is causing them to want to get in somewhere as quickly as possible,” Lori Szala, national director of client services for the Human Coalition, said in March. “The main concern that we’re seeing across the board is that they’re concerned about being able to pay for their existing children.”
Once the Human Coalition staff helps connect the mothers with job openings, insurance options, and other practical help, Szala said, they often choose to have their babies. One woman who lost her job and her insurance near the beginning of the pandemic felt desperate to have an abortion to focus on caring for her other children. But Human Coalition helped her find a job at Amazon, and she chose to keep her baby. “We need to remember that there are families in crisis that need our help,” Szala said. “They need to know they’re not alone.”
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