How to navigate self-managed abortion issues such as access, wait times and complications – a family physician explains

“Are these pills legit? If I send money, am I even going to get these pills?”

These are the kinds of questions people have when they are curious about ordering medication abortion pills online.

This process, often called “self-sourced medication abortion,” refers to an individual finding or sourcing medications to induce an abortion on their own, without going through their primary care provider, OB-GYN or other clinic like Planned Parenthood. Globally, abortion pills might be found without prescriptions at neighborhood pharmacies or by accessing local community networks. In the U.S., even prior to the fall of Roe v. Wade, someone could order abortion pills online.

As a family physician practicing in Washington, I expect that abortion care will remain legal in my state. Even so, in the setting of legal abortion, I have cared for people who are self-managing their abortion because they don’t have a nearby abortion provider, because they cannot get a timely appointment or because they want control of their abortion experience.

In a study done before Roe v. Wade was overturned, researchers estimated that 7% of U.S. women would attempt self-managed abortion in their lifetime. Research shows that when there are more restrictions around care, demand for online abortion pills increases.

For example, one study looked at requests to a common online source of abortion pills the week after enactment of Texas’ Senate Bill 8 – legislation that banned abortion after the detection of embryonic cardiac activity. That study found a mean daily increase of 1,180% over the baseline before the legislation took effect. We can only expect a larger surge given the new legal landscape in the post-Roe world.

As more people look to the internet to find abortion pills, what can they do to avoid getting scammed and stay safe? Here are some resources and common questions people have about the process.

How do you get abortion pills online?

There are lots of places where you can get abortion pills online; however, not all sites have been vetted for legitimacy. One reliable “one-stop shop” is plancpills.org. This is a private advocacy organization that provides information on how to get pills. It does not mail the pills itself, but identifies the options that are available depending on someone’s location as well as basic information like the cost, delivery time, age restrictions and financial assistance availability. It’s like GoodRx for abortion pills.

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