Funding Abortion Pills By Mail: ‘Abortions Don’t Wait’

“Telehealth abortion care is the wave of the future,” said Sylvia Ghazarian, executive director of WRRAP. “We want to support these services.”

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California-based Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Fund (WRRAP) has created a new “abortion pills by mail” program to fund telehealth abortion providers in 20 states. (Creative Commons)

When the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade later this month, pregnant women living in the 26 states that are certain or likely to ban abortion will flock to states where abortion is still legal. The increase in women of reproductive age whose nearest provider would be in California will go from 46,000 currently to around 1.4 million women post-Roea nearly 3,000 percent increase. In Illinois, this number will go from 100,000 to 8.9 million—a nearly a 9,000 percent increase. Clinics in states with legal abortion will be inundated with patients, creating long waits for in-clinic abortion care.

To address this anticipated influx of patients, California-based Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Fund (WRRAP) has created a new “abortion pills by mail” program to fund telehealth abortion providers in 20 states that will maintain legal abortion in order to absorb a lot of the demand for this safe and effective abortion method and free up brick and mortar clinics to focus on providing in-clinic procedures.

“WRRAP is expanding access intentionally choosing friendly states to abortion access,” said Sylvia Ghazarian, executive director of WRRAP. “The reality is that SCOTUS will probably severely weaken or overturn Roe. Medication abortion will become more critical in the delivery of care to many people unable to access or afford care in a clinic.”

Medication abortion uses two FDA-approved oral medications to end a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone interrupts the flow of the hormone progesterone that sustains the pregnancy, and misoprostol causes contractions to expel the contents of the uterus. The FDA has approved a regimen of one mifepristone pill and four misoprostol pills through 10 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion pills now account for over half of all abortions in the U.S.

Telehealth medication abortion is much more affordable than in-clinic medication abortion, which costs on average $535 in the United States. Forward Midwifery and Pills by Post charge $150, while Choix charges $289 and carafem charges between $250 and $375.

“While we are early in our pilot program, many patients report they felt more comfortable with a self-managed abortion at home, which allows for a more private and confidential abortion. Some also indicated it allowed them to not have to take time off from school or work, which most patients can’t afford to do,” said Ghazarian.

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Medication abortion uses two types of pills: mifepristone, which interrupts the flow of the hormone progesterone that sustains the pregnancy; and misoprostol, which causes contractions to expel the contents of the uterus. (VAlaSiurua / Wikimedia Commons)

WRRAP has funded in-clinic abortion care across the nation for over 30 years. This is the first time they have funded virtual abortion clinics, which began springing up across the country in the fall of 2020 after the pandemic-related removal of an FDA requirement that health care providers dispense abortion pills in person. Last December, the FDA permanently lifted that requirement.

WRRAP is currently working with nine telehealth abortion providers that offer services in 20 states, including Forward Midwifery, Pills By Post, Choix and carafem. In creating their new abortion pills by mail program, WRRAP worked closely with Plan C, which advocates for abortion pills by mail. Plan C supports medical professionals to develop telehealth abortion services, including offering a provider toolkit with step-by-step instructions.

Unlike most abortion funds that require patients to call them directly for assistance, WRRAP funds abortion providers directly, which means faster, more confidential care. “We wanted to streamline the process. It alleviates a lot of steps and makes it a smoother experience for the patient,” said Ghazarian. “This is important because abortions don’t wait.”

Ghazarian says WRRAP hopes to be able to fund advance provision abortion pills in the future so that people can have pills on hand in their medicine cabinet in case they need them.

“Telehealth abortion care is the wave of the future in terms of being able to provide access to the largest number of patients across the U.S. We want to support these services,” said Ghazarian.

You can donate to WRRAP here.

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

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About

Carrie N. Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is the Sylvia Dlugasch Bauman professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. She is a contributing editor at Ms. magazine. You can contact Dr. Baker at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @CarrieNBaker.