Ending a pregnancy in 14 states leaves few options. Some are looking to Europe and India for help.

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer, abortion medication has been under fire as the abortion drug mifepristone is the subject of a federal lawsuit and some states are attempting to restrict access by threatening legal action against retail pharmacies and suppliers of the drug. Photo: Peter Dazeley/GettyImages

States with abortion bans struggle to stop mailed abortion pills from overseas

The pills came in a dark salmon-colored envelope sealed with a plastic covering that traveled more than 7,000 miles, over a dozen time zones from Nagpur, India, in almost exactly one week.

They were placed partially under the doormat of a home in a state with one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the United States, where zero clinics or pharmacies dispense the medication and the closest option for an in-person procedure is at least an hour to four hours away.

It is, advocates say, one of the only options left for those seeking abortions in one of the 14 states with criminal penalties for health care providers who perform the procedure.

The process of ordering the medication from Aid Access, a nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Rebecca Gomperts in 2018, is cobbled together in segments. From the organization’s headquarters in Austria, Gomperts acts as the prescribing gynecologist for the person ordering the pills on the Aid Access website. It’s one of the only services that allows people to order the medication as a “just in case” option, as the pills don’t expire for two years with proper storage.

Payment of $105 (about 98 euros) is made separately via PayPal, and once payment is complete, Gomperts sends her prescription to the pharmacy. There is also an option for financial assistance.

Mifepristone and misoprostol are used in combination to end a pregnancy, typically before 12 weeks of gestation, and the drugs are used to help manage early miscarriages. Mifepristone is taken first to stop the production of the progesterone hormone, which is needed to continue a pregnancy. Misoprostol is then taken to induce contractions in the uterus to expel the pregnancy.

Mifepristone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000, but it is under legal challenges in court and legislatures across the country are attempting to restrict access to the drug. On Friday night, Wyoming’s governor signed into law a ban on medication-induced abortions.  A lawsuit challenging the FDA’s approval process for mifepristone is ongoing in Texas, where a federal judge could order the agency to revoke its approval after more than two decades. Other states are attempting to restrict access by threatening legal action against retail pharmacies and any other suppliers of the drug.

An email notification is sent when the package ships, with detailed instructions about how to take the medication, the potential risks involved, side effects and pain management and when to seek medical attention. The email also includes resources for hotlines with people available for emotional support or to provide answers to medical questions.

The package itself includes a box with one mifepristone pill and four misoprostol pills, and a separate package contains 12 misoprostol pills. The combination box is enough for pregnancies that are less than 12 weeks’ gestation, while the 12 pills are designed for pregnancies of more than 12 weeks.

By email, Gomperts told States Newsroom her organization is receiving more than 1,000 emails per day from individuals looking for help. Many of them also cannot afford the full price of the drugs. In February, Gomperts said 57% of those who paid for the drugs were able to pay less than 50 euros, or about $53.

“It is important to continue this work because the people we help cannot travel to other states to get a safe abortion,” Gomperts said. Read more

Wyoming legislature passes bills to ban medication abortion and exempt abortion as health care

The abortion drug mifepristone is one of several pills used for abortion that will be illegal under a bill passed by the Wyoming legislature this week. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

New law seeks to create path around state’s constitutional health care provision adopted in 2012

Wyoming legislators approved two bills related to abortion this week, including a ban on medication abortion and a bill stating abortion is not health care, as a means of skirting the Wyoming Constitution in a court challenge to its abortion ban.

Voters in Wyoming approved adding a new section to the state’s constitution in 2012 amid criticism of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare. The amendment states, “Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions. The parent, guardian or legal representative of any other natural person shall have the right to make health care decisions for that person.”

That constitutional provision was the basis for a Wyoming judge to grant a preliminary injunction in August halting enforcement of a trigger law passed by the Wyoming Legislature in 2021 that was set to go into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to return the right to regulate abortion to the states.

The Wyoming Supreme Court is still considering whether to uphold or strike down the trigger law on those constitutional grounds. Until it does, abortion remains legal in Wyoming.

House Bill 152, called the Life is a Human Right Act, states that abortion is not health care.

“It is within the authority of the state of Wyoming to determine reasonable and necessary restrictions upon abortion, including its prohibition,” the bill states. “In accordance with (the Wyoming Constitution), the legislature determines that the health and general welfare of the people requires the prohibition of abortion as defined in this act.”

The bill includes several exceptions for abortions performed in certain circumstances, including: Read more

Democratic governors in 20 states form reproductive rights alliance

Pro-choice activists with the National Organization For Women hold a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on January 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. The vigil was held to mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Roy Cooper joins as a founding member

Democratic governors from 20 states across the U.S., led by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, have formed a Reproductive Freedom Alliance to safeguard and improve abortion and reproductive health care access “in the face of an unprecedented assault by states hostile to abortion rights,” according to a joint statement.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a strong supporter of reproductive rights who last year challenged in court Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, is part of the coalition. She also supported Proposal 3 of 2022, which passed in November and guarantees abortion rights in the state Constitution.

The announcement represents another divide in the country’s ongoing debate in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade and a constitutional right to abortion care. Eighteen states have either completely banned abortion or restricted it to patients who are between six and 20 weeks pregnant, while the procedure remains legal in 26 states. Six states are trying to institute bans that are blocked or under consideration by courts.

Several of the states that signed on to the alliance — including Illinois, Oregon and New Mexico — border states with abortion bans. Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, joined the coalition despite the fact that his state has a ban in place based on an 1849 law with no exceptions for rape or incest. Evers has filed a lawsuit challenging the 174-year-old statute.

“Every Wisconsinite should have the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians,” Evers said in the news release. “That’s a right I’ll never stop fighting for as long as I’m governor — not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the will of the people. Reproductive health care is health care, and I’m proud to join my fellow governors in continuing the fight to restore Roe and reproductive rights for every person in Wisconsin and across the country.”

California governor calls alliance a ‘firewall’ for reproductive rights

Much of the funding for the alliance will be provided by the California Wellness Foundation, with additional support from the Rosenberg Foundation, a California-based philanthropic organization. That funding will be used for logistical purposes to support collaboration between the offices and coordinate actions such as executive or administrative orders, health and human services-related directives, budgetary requests and reproductive-related legislation.

Gov. Roy Cooper

The alliance will also serve as a resource for governors and their staff members to share best practices for their own constituents and those who live in states with bans or restrictions, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

“California has long been a leader in reproductive rights, but we can’t do it alone. We have gathered a coalition of bipartisan governors to commit to reproductive freedom, and a coalition this size — 20 and counting — has never been done before,” Newsom said in the news release. “This alliance is a moral obligation to what is right and will stand as a firewall to fight for and protect providers, patients, and all who are affected by these attacks on fundamental rights.” Read more