Abortion Information

In this photo illustration, a person looks at an abortion pill (RU-486) for unintended pregnancy from Mifepristone displayed on a smartphone on May 8, 2020, in Arlington, Va. Under federal law, even in states where telemedicine abortion is legal, there are strict rules surrounding how the pill is dispensed.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, there were lots of abortion restrictions in South Dakota. But now the procedure has become unavailable, officials say.

“I called to make the appointment and they said the Sioux Falls location was closed [for abortions] because of the coronavirus,” said 34-year-old Heather. NPR agreed not to use her last name because she doesn’t want people in her largely conservative community to know about her abortion.

During the coronavirus pandemic, more healthcare is moving online — including abortion. In many states, abortion pills can be prescribed remotely, and abortion providers are reporting a growing number of women seeking medication abortions through telemedicine. But others are finding obstacles in their way.

Heather lives in Sioux Falls, S.D., and has two small children. One of her kids is being treated for a rare form of cancer and Heather said she and her partner felt they couldn’t handle another pregnancy now.

“Somebody can only take so much, I guess,” she said.

Between layers of restrictions on abortion, and a lot of social stigma, Planned Parenthood officials say they’ve been unable to find a South Dakota-based doctor to perform abortions. So for 25 years, the organization has been flying physicians in and out, several times a month, to provide the procedure at the state’s only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls.

But now, even that’s not possible, said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States.

“It’s been very difficult for women to access abortion since COVID-19 because of course we can’t fly doctors to South Dakota anymore,” she said.

Stoesz oversees clinics in several Midwestern states. Her region has seen a 250% increase in the use of telehealth for all types of care since social distancing restrictions took effect. In Iowa, where telemedicine abortion is legal, the organization reports a 33% increase over about a month.

But abortion through telemedicine is not legal in South Dakota.

“That means that there is no abortion access in South Dakota right now,” Stoesz said.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, 18 states prohibit doctors from prescribing abortion pills remotely. In places where the practice is legal, doctors say they’re hearing from more patients seeking abortions this way.

“I think what they’re seeing is that most of their health care has moved to an online or a tele-platform,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an abortion provider in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. “So we are constantly getting folks asking questions about that. And unfortunately, in most of the places that I work in the Midwest, that’s just not an option.”

In New York, a state with more liberal abortion laws, Dr. Meera Shah is chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, outside New York City. Shah said she has stepped up the use of telehealth for all types of reproductive health care, including abortion for patients in the early stages of pregnancy.

“I had a patient the other day who is an emergency responder who was sitting in her ambulance and accessed abortion care via telemedicine and then drove her ambulance to our health center to pick up the meds,” Shah said. “And she was so grateful that she was able to do that and only take, you know, max 15 minutes away from her work.”

Under federal law, even in states where telemedicine abortion is legal, there are strict regulations surrounding how mifepristone is dispensed.

Reproductive rights advocates want policy makers to ease restrictions on the drug – especially during the pandemic. They point to the United Kingdom, where regulators have eased rules for medication abortions in response to the coronavirus crisis. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has sued the federal government, asking that rules requiring patients to pick up the abortion pill mifepristone at a medical facility be suspended.

But Dr. Christina Francis, with the anti-abortion rights group the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, supports strict controls on abortion pills. She opposes abortion, but said if a woman is going to have a medication abortion, she should see a doctor first to confirm how far along the pregnancy is and check for other complications.

“I will tell you as a woman, and as a physician who sees women: I love women; I think we are intelligent. But we are notoriously bad about knowing our last period and being able to date pregnancies that way,” Francis said.

Abortion rights advocates point to research suggesting patients receiving abortion pills through telemedicine have similar outcomes to other types of abortion, and the fact that groups including ACOG say the safety of medication abortion is well-established.

For Heather, South Dakota’s restrictions on telemedicine abortion meant taking a different type of risk: driving to a clinic in Omaha, Neb., about three hours each way, where she was prescribed abortion pills to take home. Several weeks ago, she and her partner packed cleaning supplies and loaded up the kids — even though she knew it could be dangerous during a pandemic.

“I just didn’t want them touching anything,” she said.

Heather isn’t alone; officials at Planned Parenthood say more than 60 patients from South Dakota have traveled to clinics outside the state for abortions since the pandemic began.

“It was something that I needed to do,” Heather said. “And I was gonna have it done, whatever lengths I had to go to, whatever obstacles they put in front of me.”

Source: https://www.mainepublic.org/post/more-patients-seek-abortion-pills-online-during-pandemic-face-restrictions

Doing away with abortion rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, like many abortion restrictions, is overwhelmingly unpopular.

Sixty-five percent of registered voters polled between May 8 to May 13 for Navigator said they don’t think lawmakers should fighting over or restricting access to “time-sensitive reproductive care.”

Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to suspend abortion rights is widely unpopular. Not even Republicans are into it.

Sixty-five percent of registered voters polled between May 8 to May 13 for Navigator, a left-leaning public opinion research organization, said they don’t think lawmakers should fighting over or restricting access to “time-sensitive reproductive care.”

Banning abortion as a response to the pandemic is unpopular among self-identified Democrats and independents: 79 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents said reproductive health care should not be restricted. Meanwhile, 51 percent of Republicans disagreed with restricting abortion services during the pandemic.

Only 21 percent of overall respondents—and 33 percent of Republicans—supported anti-abortion COVID-19 policies.

“This poll illustrates that the American public stands on the side of reproductive freedom and that anti-choice politicians’ attempts to ban abortion during a global pandemic are not only unpopular, they’re also politically stupid,” Amanda Thayer, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Rewire.News.

“As our country grapples with how to address this public health emergency, the majority of voters—even a majority of Republicans—oppose using the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine reproductive freedom and restrict access to healthcare women need,” Thayer added. “Now, more than ever, medical care should be determined by science—not an ideological agenda that threatens the health and safety of millions of people.”

Reproductive rights groups like NARAL have created digital ad campaigns that criticize anti-abortion efforts during the pandemic. Planned Parenthood Action Fund, meanwhile, is running ads in 11 battleground states to highlight access to reproductive health care.

Some lockdown orders issued by state officials in the first days of the COVID-19 outbreak classified abortion as an “elective” procedure that could be delayed, effectively banning abortion in at least seven states. The abortion bans, all implemented by Republican governors, were challenged in the courts, with conservative judges approving bans like the one in Texas.

In early April, Republican attorneys general across the country signaled they’d defend COVID-19 abortion bans when they signed on to an amicus brief supporting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) pandemic policy suspending abortion care. Before the pandemic, no state had more than 23 percent support for total bans on abortion, according to a 2019 poll by nonpartisan research organization Public Religion Research Institute.

While COVID-19 abortion bans have largely been lifted as states slowly reopen, Arkansas’ onerous requirement that patients test negative for COVID-19 before having an abortion remains in place despite lawsuits against the state.

Navigator’s recent polling falls in line with public opinion research, which found that anti-abortion policies like near-total abortion bans have little support in the United States—when people actually know what the polices do.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/05/18/pretty-much-everyone-hates-the-republican-covid-19-abortion-bans/

Contraceptive pills in Malta are often out of stock, even before the pandemic hit, but the current crisis is affecting supplies of the medicine more than ever.

22-year-old Amy Sultana was prescribed the contraceptive pill Qlaira for a skin condition, as doctors can prescribe the medicine beyond contraceptive reasons. After trying various birth control pills, including one that took her to hospital for immediate intravenous medication, Qlaira improved her condition and she has been taking it for ten months.

However, the pill has been out of stock in Malta since at least February, meaning Sultana has been left without the medicine for months. Moreover, swapping medication is no easy feat, as different hormones and dosages come with varying side-effects, which can be considerably harmful.

“Too many women like myself have our backs against the wall because of the situation. Why am I being prescribed medication that will soon end up out of stock to then change and change again?”

“Why do I have to be told my medication is on its way and when it finally never arrives my skin has sores, cysts and I can’t move my lips?” she wrote in an Instagram story.

“This might not be a big deal to many, but the few that have suffered are desperate for a solution.”

However, it actually turned out to be a very big deal for several women, who flooded Sultana’s Instagram post with their own similar stories after different types of contraceptives pills suddenly go out of stock. 

All the women's responses to Amy's Instagram post

All the women’s responses to Amy’s Instagram post

“I know I am not the only one in this situation; I know two other people personally and god knows how many others have been in the same situation and are forced to change again and again,” one of them said. “I know that for me and many others changing the pill means having to get used to new hormone levels which has many negative side effects both mental and physical.”

“I’ve changed pill four times because of this and Qlaira is the only pill I’ve found that suits me because I suffer with severe acne and chronic periods,” one woman said.

“My pill has been out of stock for over five months and I had sent an email to the health authorities. I’ve had to go on a new pill now. It’s the third brand I’ve had to try because this keeps on happening,” another said.

“I’ve changed pills enough times to appreciate what a struggle this is, and it’s simply ridiculous that such an important drug with such strict rules to adhere to can be out of stock across the country.”

Another woman also on the out-of-stock medicine Qlaira said it is not an option for her to try another brand.

“Currently the contraceptive pill I’m on (Qlaira) has been out of stock for around three to four months and many other brands are also out of stock. No pharmacy is sure when it is going to be back in stock, which I find ridiculous.”

“I have already had to change pill because the previous pill I was on was out of stock for four months and I ran out. Now that I’ve changed brand, I realise it’s happening with many brands and I can’t just keep switching as it has a negative effect on my body. I am on the pill not only for contraceptive reasons but for medical ones too so I can’t just stop taking it until it is back in stock.”

Beyond medical reasons for taking the hormonal pill, one woman pointed out that the issue of blanket anti-abortion laws makes the availability of the pill even more crucial.

“Considering that in Malta abortion is illegal it is only right that all women have easy access to contraception and the pill is a very common form of that!”

“This really angers me because I’ve seen many comments calling women reckless for getting pregnant and opting for an abortion whilst in reality the country doesn’t even supply the proper birth control.” 

Lovin Malta spoke to Prof. Anthony Serracino Inglott, from the Medicines Authority, regarding the short supply of certain brands. He said that several factors have affected the availability of the pill.

“It’s a very concerning situation,” he said. “Malta imports many of these pills from the UK and Brexit has impacted the process, while the COVID-19 crisis has also made it worse. There is also a lack of competitors producing the active ingredients of the contraceptive.”

The global epidemic has disrupted supply chains of leading manufacturer giants like China and India, who produce Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), a core component of all drugs, including contraceptives. The COVID-19 crisis forced factories in the two countries to shut their doors, leading to fear of a global shortages of essential medicines since the outbreak.

When the outbreak hit Malta, the government ordered a stock up of what it considered essential medicines to prevent such shortages. However, the contraceptive pill is not listed as an essential medicine.

Meanwhile, women have been kept in dark without an idea as to when they will be able to access these pills from local pharmacies again.

What do you make of the situation?

Source: https://lovinmalta.com/news/malta-is-running-low-on-contraceptives-but-its-not-considered-an-essential-medicine-anyway/?fbclid=IwAR3Ivtv2GDvZGD7gH8-6oQsy39Tpn213FAB_qrwaSEUTKcK1iTlt_GJ-B4U

Repeal the 8th supporters celebrate as the referendum result was announced

The second anniversary of the referendum on the 8th amendment has arrived, and has barely made a dent in the news coverage due to Covid-19.

Arguably, the appetite for the story is no longer there, but it is a topic that will never be far from the headlines.

Legislation underpinning the current service will be reviewed next year, for example.

Covid-19 has changed abortion services here.

The Health Service Executive has revised the model of early abortion care so that medical appointments can be provided remotely.

If the pandemic arrived prior to 2019, women would have been unable to travel for abortions, resulting in an increase in the number seeking abortion pills online.

The island of Malta, which prohibits abortion, is currently in that situation.

Activists for abortion services there say Covid-19 travel restrictions has led to vendors currently “peddling fake and potentially unsafe” abortion pills to women in Malta.

Women could previously travel abroad to abortion clinics. However, the cessation of passenger flights has resulted in fake pills being sold online.

The Women’s Rights Foundation in Malta says six local pages selling abortion pills were created on one social media platform between the end of March and mid-May.

It has warned that such businesses are unreliable, dangerous and exposing women to risk.

Here in Ireland, the circumstances are quite different.

If the law had not changed, the Irish Family Planning Association says the situation of clients during restrictions would be unthinkable.

The IFPA says remote medical appointments mean those who currently need access to early abortion care only have to enter a healthcare facility in exceptional circumstances.

Campaigners for the introduction of abortion in Malta look to Ireland’s referendum as an example of how the argument for services can be won.

Ireland emboldened Malta’s abortion-rights activists to take the debate from social media to the mainstream prior to last year’s European elections.

It has led to the establishment of similar campaign groups that formed in this country before the referendum.

One is Doctors for Choice.

The group published a position paper two months ago, calling for the decriminalisation of abortion, and for changes to the law to allow the provision of abortion services in Malta.

It is a debate we are all too familiar with here.

In the lead up to the referendum on the eighth amendment, there was some discussion about the swift pace of change in Ireland over the past 20 years. Compared to Malta, it is glacial.

Divorce was legalised there in 2011, the morning-after pill was introduced in 2016 and gay marriage was legalised in 2017.

It is hardly surprising that the Maltese population who are against the introduction of abortion services feel overwhelmed by the pace.

Polls conducted last year show 95% of Maltese do not agree with abortion in the first 12 weeks of gestation.

If a referendum were held there today, it is unlikely that the outcome would echo Ireland’s referendum result two years ago.

Despite that, Irish activists are continuing to offer advice and support to their Maltese counterparts in preparation for when it happens.

Source: https://www.rte.ie/news/world/2020/0525/1141515-abortion/?fbclid=IwAR0SZqXpz8p3Ai3GPeSoHWz3Twj_S2arWlvgA6cHQVJG6U68N7W9PDEaN9o

Overall, 65 percent of Americans said politicians should not attack reproductive freedom during the pandemic. Pictured: Women’s March, D.C. 2019. (Susan Melkisethian / Flickr)

A recent Navigator poll makes one thing clear: Americans do not want abortion access restricted during the COVID-19 crisis.

Overall, sixty-five percent of poll respondents said politicians should not attack reproductive freedom during the pandemic.

The sentiment is universal across all political parties: 79 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Independents, and over half of Republicans—51 percent—agreed.

“This poll illustrates that the American public stands on the side of reproductive freedom and that anti-choice politicians’ attempts to ban abortion during a global pandemic are not only unpopular, they’re also politically stupid,” Amanda Thayer, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Rewire.News.

Despite this clear message from Americans, politicians in states like Texas and Alabama attempted to use the pandemic to deem abortions as non-essential medical procedures—causing countless abortions to be cancelled or delayed during the pandemic. (Abortions are, of course, time-sensitive.)

Other states took a different approach to restrict abortion access by putting arduous, impossible obstacles in the way of women seeking an abortion. In Arkansas, for example, surgical abortions resumed April 27, but only if the patient tested negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours—”an absurd requirement considering testing in the United States is such a disaster that there aren’t even enough tests to administer to asymptomatic U.S. senators,” writes Rewire.News. The ACLU is suing.

Further, while abortion pills are overwhelmingly safe to use at home, current FDA regulations dramatically restrict access to mifepristone (the abortion pill). Advocates are pursuing multiple strategies to challenge the restriction, from lawsuits to billboards.

Debates surrounding reproductive rights are also central to cases the Supreme Court is hearing remotely. The court already heard arguments regarding whether businesses must provide contraceptive coverage. While the arguments lobbied against employer coverage of birth control were “dishonest, damaging and delusional,” it is not clear what the Court’s decision will be.

The Supreme Court is also deciding whether or not requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is legal. Although the case originated in Louisiana, its effects may be far-reaching, further limiting abortion access in up to fifteen states.

President Trump has made his abortion opposition clear, and reproductive rights continue to be restricted in numerous states, but America has spoken:

Women must maintain the right to their own bodily decisions.

Source: https://msmagazine.com/2020/05/21/americans-dont-want-politicians-using-covid-19-to-attack-abortion/?fbclid=IwAR1kJI4aYtvAz1Zk4NtXDzJp27_gjWaDSOqThGNRB0ylZWF9F0zvE4WdW9A

United Nations headquarters in New York City (Mike Segar/Reuters)

In a letter, the USAID administrator requested that the U.N. stop using the global pandemic to push abortion as an ‘essential service.’

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has written to the United Nations, asking the organization to remove “reproductive health” and support for abortion from its humanitarian plan responding to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“The delivery of essential health care is the first priority around the globe during this time. In addition, severe food shortages could represent a second, deadly impact of the pandemic in many countries,” acting administrator John Barsa wrote, noting that the U.N. “must remain focused on addressing the most urgent, concrete needs that are arising out of the pandemic.”

“Therefore, the U.N. should not use this crisis as an opportunity to advance access to abortion as an ‘essential service,’” Barsa added. “Unfortunately, the Global HRP [Humanitarian Response Plan] does just this, by cynically placing the provision of ‘sexual and reproductive health services’ on the same level of importance as food-insecurity, essential health care, malnutrition, shelter, and sanitation.”

Barsa points out that the U.N.’s plan explicitly calls for the increased distribution of “abortion-inducing drugs and abortion supplies,” as well as for individual countries to promote elective abortion as part of the response to COVID-19 outbreaks.

The letter echoes the theme of President Donald Trump’s remarks at the U.N. General Assembly last fall, where he emphasized that his administration aims to disentangle the U.S. from promoting abortion overseas, which the U.N. does routinely. “We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery,” Trump said. “Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.”

Barsa’s letter is also in line with a joint statement that the U.S. presented at last year’s General Assembly on behalf of itself and 18 other member countries, insisting that there exists no “international right” to abortion and asking the U.N. to cease using euphemistic terms such as “sexual and reproductive health and rights” in its official documents and proposals.

“There is no international right to an abortion,” Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said in remarks at the assembly, “and these terms should not be used to promote pro-abortion policies and measures.” Azar said that these ambiguous terms allow for misinterpretation in the implementation of policy, which lends the U.N.’s imprimatur to expansions of abortion on demand.

Azar also acknowledged in his speech “the sovereign right of nations to implement health policies,” pointing out that the U.N.’s insistence on promoting abortion is in conflict with the pro-life practices of many nations. Barsa’s letter makes a similar point: “Indeed, the U.N. should not intimidate or coerce member states that are committed to the right to life. To use the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification to pressure governments to change their laws is an affront to the autonomy of each society to determine its own national policies on health care.”

In just one example of this problem, pro-life groups in Ecuador have recently orchestrated protests because the U.N. humanitarian-response plan conflicts with the country’s abortion policy. Abortion is illegal in Ecuador, except in cases where a woman’s life is at risk, but because the U.N. plan requires countries to implement a program training health-care personnel to promote “access to contraception including emergency contraception, safe legal abortion and post-abortion care,” pro-lifers fear that the country will be forced either to adopt these policies or to forgo U.N. aid.

“To achieve global unity . . . it is essential that the UN’s response to the pandemic avoid creating controversy,” Barsa’s letter continues. “Therefore, I ask that you remove references to ‘sexual and reproductive health,’ and its derivatives from the Global HRP, and drop the provision of abortion as an essential component of the UN’s priorities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic . . . [which is] among the most polarizing issues raised in UN negotiations.”

Though some news outlets have covered this letter as if Barsa’s request is merely an effort to “avoid creating controversy,” the aim of his missive and of the Trump administration more broadly is obvious and understandable. Abortion is perhaps the most highly debated issue both in the U.S. and when it comes to global aid, and it would be a mistake for the U.N. to continue imposing its progressive view of the question on countries that insist on protecting unborn human life.

Source: https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/05/coronavirus-pandemic-trump-administration-asks-united-nations-to-remove-abortion-from-covid-19-plan/?fbclid=IwAR2O7Nn9-w-6KnGj7WV9Wm43ZseafQnmQHznjBQTWrgCAd3HWNFseE4RZHE

Abortion rights opponents have long pushed the reversal of medication abortion as a legitimate procedure. It’s not.

In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to AidAccess and Rablon, organizations that sell medication abortion pills directly to patients—a move applauded by congressional Republicans.
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A watchdog group wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put a stop to anti-choice organizations from marketing an unproven—and in some cases, dangerous—procedure known as “abortion reversal.”

Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit organization focused on public accountability, sent a letter to the FDA on Wednesday asking the agency to “seize the websites of any entity improperly marketing an unapproved procedure known as ‘Abortion Pill Reversal.’” Previously, the watchdog group has blown the whistle on anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ groups’ misuse of personal data and privacy with their Google and Apple apps.

The letter references Abortion Pill Rescue, the American Pregnancy Association, and Obria Medical Clinics as a few of the websites that market the procedure. Abortion Pill Rescue’s website states that “abortion reversal” is an “effective process … that can reverse the effects of the abortion pill and allow you to continue your pregnancy, but time is of the essence.” The website is operated by Heartbeat International, which runs a network of crisis pregnancy centers.

Abortion rights opponents have pushed the “reversal” of medication abortion—a two-drug regimen taken within the first ten weeks of pregnancy—as a legitimate procedure for those who might regret ending their pregnancy. (A recent study found that 99 percent of people don’t regret their abortion five years after undergoing the procedure.)

The unproven process consists of taking the hormone progesterone, which can supposedly “reverse” the effects of taking the first dose of abortion medication. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other reproductive health experts say “abortion reversal” does not meet clinical or scientific standards.

Alice Huling, counsel for Campaign for Accountability, said the Trump administration needs to stop anti-choice organizations from promoting “abortion reversal” as a proven, scientifically vetted procedure that’s safe for pregnant people. In 2019, researchers at the University of California, Davis had to stop an “abortion reversal” study after three of 12 women in the study were hospitalized with severe vaginal bleeding.

“Ideologically driven zealots are promoting misuse of a federally regulated drug despite indications that such use can result in dangerous health outcomes,” Huling said in a statement. “The FDA must put an end to the promotion and use of this unsound treatment. … Absent FDA action, women have no way of knowing that abortion reversal isn’t real or safe.”

The letter comes about two weeks after anti-choice groups, including Heartbeat International, asked the FDA to seize the website domains of providers offering medication abortion pills for at-home use. In 2019, the FDA cracked down on organizations that sell medication abortion pills directly to patients—a move applauded by congressional Republicans.

Republican-held state legislatures have passed laws in recent years forcing doctors to tell their patients about the option of “abortion reversal.” This legislation was largely based on anecdotal evidence about reversing medication abortions published by two doctors who oppose abortion rights.

Dr. Mitchell Creinin, the lead researcher in the UC Davis study, told NPR in December 2019, “Encouraging women to not complete the regimen should be considered experimental.”

“It’s not that medical abortion is dangerous,” he said. “It’s not completing the regimen, and encouraging women, leading them to believe that not finishing the regimen is safe. That’s really dangerous.”

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/05/21/no-you-cant-reverse-an-abortion-so-why-is-the-fda-allowing-this-scam/

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