With the Supreme Court's decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade due any day now, pro-abortion activists are promoting abortion pills as a possible option in states where clinics might be forced to close.
A number of conservative states, however, are clamping down on access to the drugs.
Axios reports that nearly half of the states have prohibited or severely restricted the abortifacients misoprostol and mifepristone and more could soon follow.
The use of abortifacient pills accounted for 54% of all U.S. abortions in 2020 – a 15% increase from 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required patients seeking abortion-inducing drugs to get them from hospitals or medical facilities in person.
In December, the FDA permanently revised its guidance, allowing patients to access the drugs through telemedicine consults and postal mail, where permitted by law.
On Tuesday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed a law making the mailing of abortion pills illegal in his state and punishable by up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a law in May that makes mailing abortion pills a felony in his state, with a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. The law also places additional restrictions on medication abortion.
Texas bans the use of abortion pills at seven weeks, and Indiana at 10 weeks, according to Axios. Similar laws in South Dakota, Oklahoma and Montana have been blocked by the courts, the news outlet reports.
Republican lawmakers in several states have introduced bills to outlaw abortion pills.
A bill moving through the Alabama legislature would make it a crime to "manufacture, distribute, prescribe, dispense, sell, or transfer" abortion pills in the state, while the Wyoming state Senate passed a bill in March attempting to prohibit the drugs.
In Ohio and Iowa, lawmakers tried to enact legislation that required a doctor to be present when a patient takes abortifacient drugs; federal judges blocked those laws, however, saying such a requirement places an "undue burden" on patients.
Abortion activists say that women who are set on ending a pregnancy will use abortion pills, regardless of the laws on the books.
"It is going to be in their hands in the U.S., it's inevitable," Elisa Wells told Axios.
Wells is the co-founder of Plan C, which provides information on how to access abortion pills online.
"This is modern medical technology everybody should have access to," she said. "Whether people can use it under the radar without being criminalized is the question."
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