The founder of a global abortion-pill provider that has never shipped to the U.S. has quietly started a new service for Americans.
Oct 18, 2018
For years, an organization called Women on Web has given women a way to perform their own medication-induced abortions at home. The organization would remotely do online consultations, fill prescriptions, and ship pills that trigger miscarriages to women who live in countries where abortion is illegal. Several studies have shown that the service is safe.
For American women who’ve wanted pills, though, there’s been one major problem: Women on Web wouldn’t ship to the United States. American women could (and do) instead search online for abortion pills, but some of the medicines and pharmacies they’ve found have been less than reliable. Now Women on Web’s founder, a doctor named Rebecca Gomperts, has launched a new service that she says is just as safe as Women on Web, and it does ship to the United States. The cost is $95, but the website says the service will try to help women who can’t pay.
Just like Women on Web, the new service, Aid Access, will screen women for their eligibility to take the pills—they should not be more than nine weeks pregnant—through an online process. (If the pills are taken later, they are less likely to work.) Gomperts will herself fill each woman’s prescription for misoprostol and mifepristone, which together are about 97 percent effective in causing an abortion within the first trimester and already account for a third of all abortions in the United States. She then sends the prescriptions to an Indian pharmacy she trusts, and it ships the pills to women at their homes in the United States.
The pills come with instructions, and if women have questions, Gomperts says they can Skype with her or call her help desk. Anti-abortion groups say these pills are not safe, but Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, told me that “it doesn’t appear that women are having serious complications” from self-inducing abortions using pills. However, if women using these regimens experience heavy bleeding or some other complication—as about 3 percent of women have—they are generally advised to go to a hospital and say they had a miscarriage.
Women on Web has never worked with American women because Gomperts worried that the American anti-abortion movement would try to close down the organization. In an interview, she told me she still has that fear, but she was being inundated with requests from women in countries such as the United States, where abortion is technically legal but growing more difficult to access. “I got an email from a woman who was living in a car with two kids,” she told me. “Something had to be done.”