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Self-managed abortions expected to increase as more restrictive abortion laws take effect

According to Project SANA, there has already been an increase of Texas women ordering abortion pills online since Senate Bill 8 was passed.

AUSTIN, Texas — With Roe v. Wade overturned and Texas expected to soon put a ban on nearly all abortions, experts say some people will find ways to end pregnancies without a healthcare provider.

"I think that one thing that we see over and over is that restricting abortion does not remove the need for it,” said Abigail Aiken, principal investigator at Project SANA at the University of Texas at Austin.

Abigail Aiken has been conducting research on this topic for four years.

"We were interested in doing research that looks at what happens when people need to seek services but are in a picture of very restricted access,” said Aiken.

She said some people will resort to unsafe forms of self-managed abortion.

"Unfortunately, self-managed abortion does sometimes also encompass suffering, you know, people inflicting physical trauma on themselves to try to end a pregnancy,” said Aiken.

Aiken said that lately, more people are turning to a safer route, taking pills at home to induce an abortion. She said the website Aid Access sends pills to women in Texas and across the world. The site has seen significantly more requests from women in Texas since Senate Bill 8 passed last year, banning abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is typically at six weeks.

"There was a really big spike in requests right after it passed,” said Aiken. “And then there was a tripling of requests over baseline all the way out through the beginning of 2022, and actually, that's still ongoing at the moment."

The Aid Access website states that depending on what state you are in, they send it to you in different ways. It states:

“In the U.S. states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, our US doctors can provide abortions with the medicines mifepristone and misoprostol, which you will receive by mail within a few days. The costs of this service in 150 USD.”

“For other US states and other countries, our European doctors can provide the prescriptions for abortions with the medicines mifepristone and misoprostol. You will be informed about a trustworthy pharmacy in India who will ship the medicines to you by mail. The delivery of the packages take 1 to 3 weeks after shipment. The cost of this service is 95 Euro or 110 USD.”

But the big question: is this even legal in Texas?

"So that is a tricky question," she said.

This is tricky because of another Texas law related to abortion.

"There hasn't been so far any explicit law in Texas that says that self-managing your abortion is illegal,” said Aiken.

But there is a law banning the mailing of abortion-inducing pills. Senate Bill 4, which passed last year, bans the delivery of abortion pills through the mail. It's meant to stop women from getting the pills from across state lines through places like Aid Access. 

That same law also banned any medication abortions after seven weeks, although the FDA said they are safe for up to ten weeks. The law also requires an in-person physical before a doctor can prescribe a woman abortion-inducing medicine.

So, although these options are available for abortion pills through telemedicine and the mail, the ways of getting them are technically illegal.

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