Plan C: Medication Abortion By Mail

Whether you’re a college student looking for textbooks or a busy mom hoping to outsource her grocery shopping, chances are there’s an app in today’s digital marketplace that can help you find what you want—and have it in-hand within days, if not hours. What if obtaining a medication abortion was that easy?

Medication abortions involve two distinct drugs—Misoprostol and Mifepristone—which, when taken in combination in the first 10weeks of pregnancy, effectively terminate 95-98 percent of the non-ectopic pregnancies. These “abortion pills” earned a stamp of approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for early abortion in 2000 and are readily available at abortion clinics that provide medication abortions. (In fact, approximately 40 percent of first-trimester abortions in the U.S. are induced using these abortion pills.)

Unlike many other countries, however, the U.S. doesn’t currently have an e-commerce option for conveniently getting those pills to the women who need them, and abortion pills are currently only approved for use through conventional medical settings. Researchers are now looking for new ways to use technology to expand access to the pills, particularly in areas where there are no clinicians who provide abortion services.

Medication abortion is sometimes provided through telemedicine—where individuals get a basic exam done at a nearby clinic and then interact with a provider who can prescribe the abortion pills through video. A recently published study found that the safety and effectiveness of telemedicine abortion was comparable to in-person abortion care—and now some are arguing that the pills are safe enough to be put directly in people’s hands. They point to examples overseas where people in more than 140 countries can, with a brief online consultation, get the pills shipped directly to their mailboxes—including websites like www.womenonweb.org, www.Safe2Choose.org and www.womenhelp.org. The research on this model, in which women calculate the gestation of their own pregnancies and take the pills independently at home, shows that is is also safe, effective and acceptable to customers.

If people around the world have online access to these pills, why don’t we? Why can’t we order it securely and have it in our medicine cabinet in two business days? Simply put, individuals in the United States are being cut off from online access to these safe and effective abortion pills because of politics and overly restrictive regulations about how abortion can be provided.

Despite these barriers, some are taking matters into their own hands. I am part of Plan C, an organization working with other millennials to improve access to evidence-based information about this self-care method to bring back a period or end an unwanted early-term pregnancy. Through innovative communication approaches, we hope to mobilize others to take action and demand direct access to a product that so many in other countries have at their fingertips.

You can go to Plancpills.org to help us mobilize, spread information and demand the kind of access to this health technology that we deserve—convenient, confidential and under our own control.

Victoria Nichols serves as the Social Media Director of Plan C. With a passion for public health, equity and reproductive justice, Victoria works to explore new strategies for making reproductive health care safe, accessible and less stigmatized in the United States and internationally. She earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and government and is now pursuing her master’s degree in public health, focusing on health policy and management to gain the tools to shape responsible legislation that ensures health for all.

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