Filling up on the abortion pill: what you need to know

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Earlier today, the Supreme Court officially reversed deer v. Wadepaving the way for states across America to severely restrict – or even outright ban – access to abortion. Although the news was widely expected, it still sent shockwaves across the country, sending people scrambling to figure out how to get an abortion – even if they’re not currently pregnant. In early May, when Politico revealed that the Supreme Court was preparing to overturn deer v. Wadesuppliers have seen an increase in requests for the abortion pilland “when asked the reason for the abortion, they said, ‘Well, the SCOTUS leak,'” says Elisa Wells, co-founder and co-director of Diet C, an online database of abortion pill suppliers. “I think they’re going to see an increase again from today.”

Although most providers only dispense abortion pills to pregnant women, some, such as Access to aid and Advanced Midwifery, offer a service called advance provision, where pills are prescribed in case they are needed. Although the practice is not widely available at present, Wells suspects that more providers will start to make it an option now that deer was overthrown. Which may lead you to ask yourself: should you stock abortion pills in your own medicine cabinet? And if you do, what are the risks?

Why should I stock abortion pills?

One of the trickiest aspects of abortion is that it’s an urgent procedure: the longer you wait to have one, the more complicated it can get. If you live in a state where abortion is legal, it may still take time to get the silver you have to pay for an abortion and make an appointment or order your pills. And if you live in a state where abortion is heavily restricted or outright illegal, it’s even more complicated. Although Aid Access ships abortion pills all over the United States, obtaining these pills can take time: some Aid Access orders are shipped from pharmacies in India and can take up to three weeks to arrive. For a pregnant person, it could be three weeks she doesn’t have. Abortion pills work best when taken early in pregnancy and are only recommended for up to 11 weeks (although some experts note that mifepristone-misoprostol combo may still work for up to 13 weeksand misoprostol alone can be used for up to 20 weekseven if the risk of complications increases every week).

Advance provision alleviates this problem. If you have abortion pills in your medicine cabinet, you can take them as soon as you realize you are pregnant. “Why wouldn’t you want to have some pills in your medicine cabinet that you could take as soon as your period is late?” Wells said. It’s already common for people to keep painkillers, cold medicine, and even emergency contraception on hand in case they need it. Why would not do you do the same with abortion pills?

How long do abortion pills last?

The official the duration of the conversation of misoprostol is about two years. For mifepristone, it’s five years. However, as with all medicines, it is possible for pills to remain effective after their expiry date.

Is it safe to store abortion pills?

Medically, yes. Abortion pills are much safer than some medications you might already have in your medicine cabinet, like Tylenol. “As long as you understand how to use the pills and have access to follow-up care in the rare event you need it, it’s not really a medical risk,” Wells says. (Don’t know how to use abortion pills? here are Resources it may help.)

Legally, it’s more complicated. As of now, keeping pills in your medicine cabinet is unlikely to get you in trouble, and even using them isn’t necessarily illegal. The majority of anti-abortion laws target providers, not patients, and self-managed abortion is not yet criminalized in any state. But overzealous prosecutors have found a variety of creative ways to punish people for managing their fertility, and as the legal landscape changes afterdeer, it is entirely possible that new laws will arise that will make it even more difficult to navigate prior provision and self-managed abortion. Stay up to date on local laws, especially if you are in a state hostile to abortion rights. And if you stock up on pills with the intention of supplying them to friends in need, you could be entering even murkier legal territory: supplying abortion pills to someone else could be construed as a practice unlicensed medicine, who can take you to jail.

It’s a good idea to refresh your digital security before you go looking for pills to reduce the chances of creating a digital fingerprint of your abortion. And if you have any questions about the legal risks of stockpiling abortion pills and self-directed abortion, the Repro Legal Helpline is a great resource to turn to – and their partner project, the Repro Legal Defense Fundprovides legal support to people criminalized for self-directed abortion.

What else should I know about advance provision?

Although self-managing an abortion is medically safe, it can still be a confusing and emotional experience, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Wells recommends connecting with the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline, a confidential service that connects patients with clinicians who can offer counseling on self-managed abortion and miscarriage. (For even more privacy, use encrypted messaging like Signal to contact them.)


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