In Brief

Women Receive Abortion Pills By Mail As Part of New Study

A woman consulting with a doctor via online video chat.
(Image credit: | Shutterstock)

Editor's note: As of August 17, 2022, the constitutional right to abortion has been eliminated in the U.S., following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. The following article was published on Nov 12, 2016, and therefore the legal information is no longer accurate. 

Some U.S. women will receive abortion pills by mail as part of a study on whether these abortions, which don't involve going to an abortion clinic and are referred to as "telabortions," can be done safely.


—Abortion laws by state:

—For questions about legal rights and self-managed abortion:

—To find an abortion clinic in the U.S:

—Miscarriage & Abortion Hotline operated by doctors who can offer expert medical advice: Available onlineor at 833-246-2632

—To find practical support accessing abortion:

The study is being conducted with women in four states, Hawaii, New York, Oregon and Washington. So far, 12 women have participated in the study, and 11 did not have any complications from taking the medicine, while one did not take the pills, according to the New York Times.

Currently, abortion pills cannot be sold in pharmacies in the United States, and are typically available only at abortion clinics and hospitals, the Times said. ['Abortion Pill' Gets New Label: 5 Things to Know About Mifepristone]

In the new study, women first consult with a doctor via an online video service. Then they go to a facility near them where they can undergo a few tests, including a blood test an ultrasound. Next, the researchers send a package will the pills in the mail via overnight delivery, the Times said. After taking the pills, the women will undergo some additional tests and have another video talk with the doctor.

Advocates of increasing access to medical services for women hope the findings could expand access to abortion services, the Times said. There are currently five states that each have only a single abortion clinic.

Some states allow women to consult with a doctor online to get an abortion, but the women must still go to a specific clinic to get the pills.

The "abortion pills" used in these procedures refers to two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol, which are taken to end pregnancy. Women can only take the pills to end a pregnancy during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Serious side effects are rare, but can include infection and hemorrhage. These occur in less than 0.5 percent of people who take the mifepristone, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

This article was updated on August 17, 2022 by Live Science contributor Alice Ball following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. This decision eliminated the constitutional right to abortion that was established by the 1973 court case and later affirmed by a 1992 case called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.