Medical experts anticipate a surge in demand for abortion pills following Monday's report that the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and permit states to enact pro-life laws restricting abortion.
One European abortionist who operates a telemedicine service told CBS News there has already been an "enormous increase" in U.S. demand for mifepristone and misoprostol, two drugs that when taken in sequence will stop an unborn baby from growing and then cause miscarriage, accompanied by cramping and bleeding.
"There's been an overwhelming amount of people that reached out to us," said Dr. Rebeca Gomperts, the founder of Aid Access, a nonprofit group that provides abortifacients by mail. "I think that's a really good response. So I would say, buckle up, women in the U.S. Just get your abortion pills in your medicine cabinet, so you have it in case you need it."
On Monday, Politico published a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion by Justice Samuel Alito for Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case concerning Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban. Politico reported that a majority of justices had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 decision that found a constitutional right to an abortion. Should Roe be overturned, 26 states have laws banning or restricting abortion that would go into effect, which will likely result in women in these states seeking "do-it-yourself" abortions at home through medication.
Mifepristone received FDA approval to be taken in regimen with misoprostol in 2000. Since then, the chemical pills have become a common option for women seeking an abortion. Chemical abortions accounted for nearly 44% of abortions in the U.S. in 2019, and the use of abortion pills before nine weeks of pregnancy has increased by 123% between 2010 and 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In December, the Biden administration loosened regulations on abortion pills that required women seeking them to obtain them at a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital. The FDA's new policy permits mifepristone to be prescribed by a telemedicine appointment and to be delivered by mail, which has increased access to abortion pills.
Still, several states have attempted to enact pro-life laws restricting access to abortion pills. Thirty-two states only allow physicians to provide abortion pills, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Indiana and Texas have banned chemical abortions after certain stages in a woman's pregnancy, while 19 other states require the clinician providing abortion pills to be physically present when the drugs are administered, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
State laws banning abortions outright would apply to chemical abortions. Legal experts say that it would be illegal for a medical professional to prescribe pills via a telemedicine appointment to a woman in a state where they are illegal, according to Reuters.
One possible loophole is for a woman to travel out of state where abortion is legal, have a telemedicine visit, and then have abortion pills delivered to an address there, legal experts told Reuters.
Women may also attempt to order abortion pills from overseas providers like Aid Access. While importing prescription drugs from abroad is illegal, CBS News reports that the FDA typically doesn't enforce the law against individuals who order medicines for their own personal use.