Mail-order abortion pill service may violate drug laws, FDA says

Credit: Video_Creative/Shutterstock
Credit: Video_Creative/Shutterstock

.- A European online service that has been quietly offering mail-order abortion pills to women in the United States for several months is being investigated by the FDA for possibly violating abortion drug laws. Aid Access is a website that says it offers abortion-inducing drugs to healthy women who are nine weeks pregnant or less.

If women qualify for the pills through online consultations, Aid Access writes them prescriptions for the two abortion-inducing drugs, misoprostol and mifepristone. These prescriptions are filled at a pharmacy in India, which mails the drugs to women in the U.S.

To date, Aid Access has reportedly mailed abortion drugs to 600 women in the U.S. The service costs $95, and the website notes that financial aid is available.

The FDA, however, has issued warnings that women should not buy mifepristone online, “because you will bypass important safeguards designed to protect your health (and the health of others).”

“Mifeprex (mifepristone) has special safety restrictions on how it is distributed to the public. Also, drugs purchased from foreign Internet sources are not the FDA-approved versions of the drugs, and they are not subject to FDA-regulated manufacturing controls or FDA inspection of manufacturing facilities,” the warning states.

In a statement made earlier this week reported by The Guardian, the FDA said that it “takes the allegations related to the sale of mifepristone in the U.S. through online distribution channels very seriously and is evaluating the allegations to assess potential violations of U.S. law.”

Aid Access founder, Dutch physician Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, has not commented on the FDA statement but told CNN that she has “no worries.”

"Everything I do is according to the law," she said.

Gomperts is also the founder of Women on Web, a site launched 12 years ago to provide abortion drugs to women in countries where the procedure is illegal, and to military women serving overseas. Women on Web reportedly mails about 9,000 abortion pill packages to women each year.

Gomperts has said she believes she has a “moral obligation” to provide this service to women who may have difficulty accessing surgical or medical abortions for a variety of reasons.

A medical abortion consists of a woman taking two different medications within about 48 hours of each other – the first, mifepristone, blocks the progesterone that makes the womb an inhabitable place for a baby. The second, misoprostol, is taken 48 hours after the first pill, and makes the uterus contract and expel its contents – the baby.

Studies show that about one in every 100,000 women who induce a medical abortion will need surgical intervention due to complications. According to FDA numbers, about one in 155,000 women die from complications of medical abortions.

Doctors who perform medical abortion reversals have said that the risks of medical abortions are often due to lack of thorough follow-ups, because women often receive the abortion-inducing drugs from clinics with which they do not have an established relationship.

Pro-life groups have slammed Gomperts and her organizations for putting money and politics ahead of women’s welfare.

“Risking women’s lives to make a political point and a quick profit makes no sense, and we sadly anticipate horror stories when inevitably something goes wrong,” said Kristan Hawkins, a spokesperson for Students for Life of America (SFLA).

“Handing out deadly drugs through the mail is a disaster waiting to happen. We know that women have died using chemical abortion drugs, and that how far along a woman’s pregnancy is or where it is can be a life or death issue. Women later in pregnancy or women experiencing an ectopic pregnancy in particular are in great risk — two things that must be determined by examination and not by some online questionnaire,” Hawkins said in a statement.

Mail-order abortions would also aid abusers of women who want “to end wanted pregnancy, something that this distribution model would make even easier. Women deserve better,” she said. Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, told CNN that Aid Access’ service was "reckless and irresponsible,” especially since women cannot be screened online for an ectopic pregnancy, "a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition that no abortion clinic would try to manage."

"Because Gomperts' plan is dangerous to women's health and safety, the act of sending unregulated prescription abortion pills through the mail should be the subject of federal regulation," she told CNN. "For this reason, Americans United for Life is exploring the possibility of Congressional intervention to protect women."

Tags: Abortion, Catholic News