Report: Underground Network Has Shipped 20,000 Abortion Pills Across U.S.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 17: The abortion drug Mifepristone, also known as RU486,
Phil Walter/Getty Images

In the sixth months following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, an “underground abortion pill network” shipped at least 20,000 packs of abortion pills across the United States, “two sources with knowledge of the situation” told VICE News.

According to the Thursday report: 

The suppliers of these estimated 20,000 packets are neither abortion clinics nor abortion telehealth organizations, but instead operate outside of the U.S. legal health care system. The demand for their pills, as well as their success at shipping them out undetected, are evidence of the thriving underground abortion network that has sprung up since Roe’s demise devastated access to abortion clinics.

Christie Pitney, a licensed nurse practitioner, a midwife with Forward Midfwery, and co-founder of Abortion Freedom Fund told the outlet that self-managed abortions are “just going to grow more and more” as Republican led states pass laws protecting unborn babies from the violence of abortion. Pitney reportedly works with Aid Access, an organization that mails pills to pro-abortion states, “and to states where it is not, through a doctor who is based overseas.”

Pitney, who said she legally provides abortion pills to people in two states, estimated she used to give pills to roughly 60 people each month, and now “helps” hundreds per month. 

“Those are specifically for myself, not even the whole organization,” said Pitney, who told VICE News that “an estimated  20,000 abortion pills were shipped between the June 2022 Roe decision and December 2022,” the report states. 

However, Aid Access is not one of the suppliers in underground abortion pill network estimate, “suggesting that the true number of abortion pills that have been mailed out through covert channels since the end of Roe is even higher,” the report states. 

The report notes that 20,000 abortions pills do not necessarily equal 20,000 abortions because some pills “may have been requested by people who were looking to stock up in case of a future unwanted pregnancy.” 

The news comes as both pro-life and pro-abortion activists await a decision from a federal court which could block the distribution of mifepristone, the first pill used in a two-drug medication abortion regimen. The FDA’s 2000 approval of mifepristone is the subject of  the lawsuit out of the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the lawsuit in November of 2022 on behalf of four national medical associations and several doctors, alleging that the agency “chose politics over science and approved chemical abortion drugs for use in the United States.”

According to the report, some abortion providers are already making plans to perform “misoprostol-only abortions” if mifepristone is banned.

“But while legal mifepristone might disappear, people will still be able to find it on their own,” the report continued. 

Elisa Wells, a co-founder of Plan C, a website that provides information about how to procure abortion pills, told the outlet that “mifepristone is flowing into this country.” She also confirmed the suppliers who sent out the estimated 20,000 pills are listed on her website, though she did not share the name/names. She further confirmed to the outlet that 20,000 abortion pills had been shipped across the country. 

VICE News is not the first outlet to bring attention to the covert abortion pill industry. In October of 2022, the New Yorker published an in-depth story about an underground network of women who call themselves “Pill Fairies.” Those women allegedly bring abortion pills over the Mexican border into the U.S. — “a process that requires disguises, burner phones, and encrypted messaging apps,” according to the publication.

Overall, mifepristone is used for more than half of all abortions in the United States. In 2020, the drug accounted for 53 percent of all abortions, up from 39 percent in 2017, the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute found. In a medication abortion, mifepristone blocks the action of progesterone, which the mother’s body produces to nourish the pregnancy. When progesterone is blocked, the lining of the mother’s uterus deteriorates, and blood and nourishment are cut off to the developing baby, who then dies inside the mother’s womb. The drug misoprostol (also called Cytotec) then causes contractions and bleeding to expel the baby from the mother’s uterus, according to former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino.


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