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Questions about self-managed abortions spike after state, federal rule changes

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Posted at 9:56 PM, Apr 25, 2022

TAMPA, Fla — Medication abortion has been FDA-approved in the U.S. since 2000.

"Self-managed abortion is not something that's new it's been around for a long time," Tampa Bay Abortion Fund (TBAF) President Kris Lawler said.

While the practice isn't new, after recent changes to federal and state laws, the types of questions surrounding it are.

"It is medically very safe, but there are, legally, some risks surrounding it," she said.

Here's why it's risky.

In Dec. 2021, after temporarily suspending its rules due to the pandemic, the FDA permanently relaxed its rules around Mifepristone, one of two pills used in a self-managed abortion. So, instead of having to get the drug from a medical facility, you can just get it through the mail after a telehealth visit.

Florida, and other states, require a patient to see a doctor in-person to qualify for any type of abortion — which essentially rules out the telehealth option. To work around this, some virtual providers in states and countries where telehealth options are legal, are working to prescribe the pills to patients who are unable to be prescribed.

Temple University law professor and reproductive rights expert Rachel Rebouche said this practice is now leading to a lot of legal gray areas. She said some states are working to create laws to curb it.

"Missouri, Texas, [and] Mississippi is trying to not only stop providers from providing abortion to their residents in their state, but also maybe stop providers from providing medication abortion through telehealth or other means in the state where it's legal," she said.

It's a workaround that's also on the radar for Right to Life's Florida chapter. ABC Action News spoke with the group's president, Lynda Bell, who says while she is pro-life, legal abortion should require an in-person visit for safety reasons.

"What do you have in your background? What do you have in your history? You may not know that you have an ectopic pregnancy," she said.

In the meantime, she said her organization is closely watching to see what states and courts do about those workarounds.

"We're going to have to see how this plays out because we do have laws in Florida that protect women and we do have laws that protect their unborn children," she said.

Lawler said TBAF will continue holding informational meetings to educate folks on their current options.

"It's something that they should be able to see as an option for them if that's the best thing for their situation," she said.

For more information on their next meeting, click here.