Stocking Abortion Pills Preemptively in Your Medicine Cabinet

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research

Just when you thought they’d gone as far down as they could go, abortion advocates reach a new low.  We thought desperate pregnant women ordering abortion pills over the internet and having them delivered by overnight mail was a serious medical risk for those women and the height of irresponsibility for the industry. But now they’ve come up with something far worse – suggesting women who aren’t even pregnant order and stock up abortion pills for later when they or someone they know might “need” them.

Writing an opinion piece in the October 13, 2021, edition of the New York Times, “free lance journalist” and abortion apologist Patrick Adams provocatively asks, “What it You Had Abortion Pills in Your Medicine Cabinet?” 

In it, he details the latest vision of Rebecca Gomperts, notorious international abortion pill promoter and online peddler, and her group Aid Access, defying the government and shipping abortion pills to the U.S. Originally angling to get abortion pills into countries where abortion had been illegal, Aid Access began taking orders and sending pills to women in America when various states threatened “access” to abortion by passing protective legislation.

When Texas passed its “Heartbeat Law” earlier this year allowing the suing of anyone participating in the performance of an abortion once an ultrasound can detect “cardiac activity,” Gomperts and Aid Access began prescribing abortion pills to women in advance – before pregnancy had occurred.  She began with Texas but has, according to Adams, since decided to make these pills available pre-pregnancy to women in “all states”

Gomperts idea is, rather than worry about what clinics will or won’t be open in the future, that women should just go ahead and order mifepristone and misoprostol now, store it away in the medicine cabinet, and just bring it out and “take the medicines the moment they have a positive pregnancy test.”

Unclear and unconcerned regarding safety measures

Gomperts maintains that advance provision “still means the doctor is the gatekeeper,” but does not explain what this means.  What screening is done, what instructions are given, are unclear.

Professional medical examinations are usually essential not only to confirm the pregnancy, but also the gestational age and location of the child.  

These pills typically prompt a significant amount of pain and bleeding. Bad enough for the pregnant women who use them, this could mean a great deal of unnecessary agony and risk for any woman who takes the drugs but turns out not to have been pregnant.

For women who might be pregnant but have maybe miscalculated their last menstrual period and are much farther along than they realize, there is the increased likelihood of failure and complications.  

While later on, there may be obvious signs of ectopic pregnancy (where the child has implanted outside the womb), these may not be apparent for women taking these in the earliest stages of pregnancy. Mifepristone does not work in cases of ectopic pregnancy, and if this has not been professionally identified and treated, sets a woman for a potentially deadly uterine rupture 

For Gomperts and Aid Access, these documented outcomes are of no great concern.  Christie Pitney, an abortionist for Aid Access who prescribes these pills to women in California and Massachusetts, told CBS News that “if a patient has any medical concerns after she takes the pills, she can go to the emergency room” (paraphrased by CBS News, 9/23/21).

Ignoring U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advice to the contrary, Aid Access suggests that a woman can keep her use of the abortion pill secret from her treating physician if she wants. “If there’s ever a legal concern or just, you know, a concern of stigma, or they don’t want their family to know, then patients can always just say that they think that they’re having a miscarriage,” Pitney told CBS News “There’s no way that [the hospital] will ever be able to tell the difference between a miscarriage and abortion.”

Defying the FDA

So far, despite an FDA warning letter issued to Gomperts and Aid Access in March of 2019 to stop shipping untested, improperly packaged pills to this country, Gomperts says her work has continued unimpeded. 

“(The FDA) sent that threatening letter, but it took no action based upon that letter,” Richard Hearn, the attorney representing Aid Access in their suit against the agency, told CBS News.

“All of our drugs were going through. The FDA and the Postal Service wasn’t stopping any. They weren’t arresting women. They weren’t doing anything like that,” Hearn said. “Women still have an option in Texas, just like they do in Idaho and other very red states.”

Abortion advocates have lobbied the FDA to abandon rules that prohibited telemedical abortions and the online prescription and sales of mifepristone for years. Eventually, they took the FDA to court to have these rules suspended during the pandemic. 

Though the Supreme Court validated the FDA’s authority to impose and enforce its rules in January of this year, when the Biden administration came in, it announced that it would not enforce them. The FDA is reviewing those rules to determine whether to make their suspension permanent.

Abortion pill promoters unleashed

Groups such as Aid Access and Gynuity that had previously been offering telemedical abortions (Gynuity under the guise of conducting a “study”) and promoting or selling these pills online, expanded operations in recent years. Other start ups like Hey Jane, Choix, Just the Pill, and Abortion on Demand have appeared seeking their own slices of the Do-It-Yourself abortion pill market.

Though Aid Access appears to be the first to actively promote “advance provision,” they are not necessarily the ones who originated the idea and unlikely to be the only ones to try it.

Daniel Grossman, a long time abortion pill researcher and promoter from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), penned an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times three years ago. There he called for “advance provision” of mifepristone, saying women should  have “access to pills before they need them” (LA Times, 11/21/18).

Grossman and fellow UCSF researchers had tried to conduct a study of advance provision of abortion pills last year. However they were unable to get the FDA – then under the Trump administration – to approve it.

Grossman reacted to Gomperts’ news with a bit of what might be called cautious enthusiasm. Grossman told Adams that “for people living in places where there’s no access to care or where there’s a narrow window of time to seek it out” he thought advance provision “makes sense.”  Nevertheless, knowing of, even if not fully regarding, the risks associated with mifepristone, Grossman cautioned that prescribers “strongly encourage the patient to call the clinician before they actually take it.” 

The risks and dangers are real, which is why the FDA has recorded two dozen deaths and thousands of complications among chemical abortion patients. Going behind the FDA’s back, or worse, getting a politicized FDA to authorize on line abortion pill sales and Gomperts “advance provision” of mifepristone boost Aid Access’ sales,  will not make their customers safer.