“… Amid growing restrictions on clinic-based abortions, the online pill market functions as a haven of last resort for desperate women. “The women who come to us don’t have any other alternatives,” said Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch physician and founder of Aid Access, which offers abortion pills online for about $90, with discounts for patients in financial straits. “They don’t have funds, or they are six hours away from the clinic, or they don’t have transport, they have small kids, they live in cars, there are situations of domestic violence — it’s just really bad situations.” In 2018, Gomperts prescribed the drug online to 2,581 patients.
But the pills aren’t just a way to evade today’s restrictions on abortion. Some activists argue that they can also remake tomorrow’s politics surrounding abortion — that the very presence of the underground market could force the authorities to loosen restrictions on abortion pills, eventually paving the way for an alternative vision for terminating a pregnancy in the United States: the inexpensive, safe, very early, private, at-home, picket-line-free, self-managed medical abortion.
“Did you feel a little rush when your pills arrived?” Elisa Wells, a director of the pill-advocacy group Plan C, asked me during a recent phone call. “It’s like, wow — it’s amazing that this really works.”
She’s right: I did feel a little rush when I got my first pills. I’d expected the whole thing to be onerous. And so, probing for hidden difficulties, I tried again, and again.
In the last year, I’ve ordered abortion pills from four different online pharmacies. The process was sometimes sketchy. There were poorly translated websites and customer-service reps messaging me over Skype with the greeting “yo.” I declined to pursue one order because the site asked me to wire money to a random address in India. After I filled out its consultation form, Aid Access sent me an email asking me if I really am pregnant, as I have a man’s name and “the woman must confirm” that she is ordering the drugs of her own accord; since I’m a man and not pregnant, I didn’t place the order.”