Abortion

Prosecution of Unauthorized Abortion Pill Websites Begins

Ursula Wing sold abortion drugs to U.S. customers and is now charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.

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The first wave of prosecutions of abortion pill sellers is upon us. A federal court last week arraigned pill purveyor Ursula Wing on charges of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce and of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Wing, who lives in New York, is accused of running a website that sold foreign-sourced pharmaceuticals to U.S. customers. The drugs Wing supposedly sold—mifepristone and misoprostol—can be taken in a two-step process to induce an abortion. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved this pill regimen for prescription use, under the brand name Mifeprex.

Mifeprex can't be sold in normal pharmacies. It must "be ordered, prescribed and dispensed by or under the supervision of a healthcare provider who prescribes and who meets certain qualifications" and "may only be dispensed in clinics, medical offices, and hospitals by or under the supervision" of this supervised provider, per FDA rules.

As with many rules surrounding abortion, these strict guidelines stem more from political issues than from reasonable health concerns.

"Despite a better safety track record than some over-the-counter drugs, the FDA prevents the sale of mifepristone at pharmacies, making it prohibitively expensive for many Americans who can't afford to travel to a registered clinic to get the abortion pill," notes the National Women's Health Network.

Regardless, Wing "could not legally sell prescription drugs because she was not licensed to do so," the complaint against her states. She allegedly bought the drugs wholesale from a pharmaceutical manufacturer in India. On an application with Western Union, she indicated that she was a retailer of Indian and Moroccan jewelry, clothing, and home goods through the business Morocco International Inc.

Wing "used a secret webpage called 'My Secret Bodega,' on her Macrobiotic Stoner blog," the government says, "to hide her activities from the FDA, [Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Postal Service]."

She is due back in court on October 9.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been sending warning letters to other online purveryors of abortion pills as well. Back in March, the FDA sent warnings to the companies AidAccess and Rablon about their unauthorized sales of mifepristone and misoprostol.

AidAccess was launched by Rebecca Gomperts, a doctor who also runs the Netherlands-based abortion pill provider Women on Web. According to University of Texas at Austin researcher Abigail Aiken, around 21,000 people tried to order abortion drugs from AidAccess between March 2018 and March 2019. Gomperts' lawyer told NBC that 2,581 were sent prescriptions.

The AidAccess website states: "If you are healthy and less than 9 weeks pregnant, you can do the online consultation. The abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol will be delivered to you by mail." The FDA quoted this text and told the company that "by facilitating the sale of unapproved mifepristone and misoprostol to consumers in the U.S., Aidaccess.org causes the introduction of unapproved new drugs into U.S. commerce in violation of the [federal Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics] Act." The agency requested the company "immediately cease causing the introduction of these violative drugs" in the U.S.

"The FDA should get its own house in order before seeking out more ways to restrict access to mifepristone and misoprostol," said Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women's Health Network, in a statement. "Aid Access provides a vital service to women who want to safely and effectively self-manage their abortions at home. If the FDA is truly worried about the safety of abortion pills imported from overseas, they should…allow Aid Access to prescribe from US pharmacies."

In a May response, AidAccess told the government that "because access to medical abortions in the U.S. has been so restricted by the FDA, women have been forced to attempt to exercise their right to abortion by way of the Internet." It would not stop selling the pills.

"I will not be deterred," Gomperts wrote on Facebook. "When US women seeking to terminate their pregnancies prior to nine weeks consult me, I will not turn them away."

As abortion clinic access in the U.S. continually contracts, the popularity of online sellers like Wing, AidAccess, and Rablon is only likely to grow⁠—and so, too, calls to crack down on sites like these and political battles surrounding them. After the FDA's warning letters in March, more than 100 members of the House of Representatives sent the agency a thank-you letter.

"Many of these lawmakers represent the very states that have recently passed laws attempting to legislate legal abortion out of existence—including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio," the group If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice noted in a letter to the FDA. "This agency's warning letters and threatened actions will further these efforts to keep abortion inaccessible," it continued. "The FDA's obligation is to protect public health for all people in the U.S., not to be partisan or political. We strongly urge you to work on advancing the FDA's mission, not to be a part of a political agenda to deprive women in the U.S. of access to legal, safe and effective abortion care."

In July, a group of more than 50 organizations and individuals sent a letter urging "the FDA, state legislators, and all policy-making bodies to be guided by the science and support the removal of unnecessary regulatory barriers that make safe and effective abortion medications inaccessible to people who need them."

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  1. Well, this should be interesting to see how it plays out.
    I hope the FDA gets a smackdown.

  2. Let’s not pretend that abortions aren’t easy to get. The “access” argument is BS.

    1. For elective abortions, it varies a lot.
      It seems pretty easy to get one in California.
      In Mississippi, it’s a different story.

      1. Jeff please tell us about that time you tried to get an abortion in MS

        1. When he/she was about -3 months old. Unfortunately, he/she was not permitted to remove the “Jeff” part of his/her body.

  3. “safety track record”

    Yes, abortion is totally safe for everyone.

    “guided by the science”

    …and by the Earth Mother and the chakras. Let’s not forget the constituency you’re aiming at here.

    It’s too bad that they can’t simply forbid people from giving their babies poison in order to kill them – such a flat ban would violate the Abortion Clause in the Constitution.

    But it’s poetic justice to tie these killers up in the FDA bureaucracy – these are people who, in any other area of life, are cheerleaders for onerous government regulations.

    1. The other ironic thing is that the people who claim abortion is just another medical procedure are now complaining when it is treated like one. You can’t sell drugs that haven’t been approved by the FDA even if they are not abortion drugs.

      1. And libertarians are opposed to that as well.

        1. So what? All that means is that this being an abortion drug is a superfluous fact. It would be just as objectionable no matter what drug it is. So, why is ENB spending half the article talking about abortion?

          1. So you and Eddy can clutch your pearls.

            1. No one is clutching any pearls but you. You are the one ranting and raving about God and abortion.

              1. It’s true. CMW can’t have an honest discussion; he just defaults straight to using abortion/open borders/whatever as something he assumes will wind up those nasty conservatives.

      2. Your wrong. What people are asking is that the drugs in question be treated like other drugs and be available from a pharmacy. The FDA decision restricting the drugs is not based on science but based on politics and is designed to limit access to the drugs.

        1. “treated like other drugs”

          There’s a very rigid protocol for prescribing drugs like thalidomide which pose a risk of injuring the fetus…that’s the proper basis for comparison.

          What needs defending is making an exception to these strict rules for drugs which kill the fetus with the mother’s approval.

          That’s not treating abortifacients like comparable drugs. So your comparison falls apart.

          1. Again I disagree. Any drug should be evaluated based on its effectiveness and adverse side effects. The purpose of the drugs in question is to end a pregnancy, the effectiveness in that has been shown. Whatever side effect are encountered are not significant enough to stop use at designated clinics, and so do not seem significant enough to prohibit dispensing these drugs at a pharmacy. Your argument suggests that abortifacients themselves should be illegal. That is not a medical or scientific decision but an ethical one. That decision has already been made.

            1. “That decision has already been made.”

              By seven science-loving male lawyers on the Supreme Court? Whose reasoning has been skewered even by some “prochoice” scholars?

              Yeah, after that decision we heard no more about that subject and everyone accepted the decision.

              You could just as well say that the decision was already made in the whole course of U. S. history *before* the Roe decision. But that decision was against legalized abortion, and like a good progressive, you don’t think a decision is settled until the voting comes out right, after which it has been decided for all time.

              1. Cf., the campaign in the UK for a revote on Brexit – and if the vote is “pro-Europe,” expect to hear no more of allowing a vote on the issue ever again.

              2. At the time Roe V Wade was decided 20 states allowed abortions. Governor Ronald Reagan signed the California bill allowing abortions in that state. Antiabortion columnist George Wills frequently points out that more state would likely have allow abortions. What Roe v. Wade did was galvanize the anti-abortion forces. They were effective, but only to a limited extent and today there is a majority for allowing early term abortions where drugs are used.

                1. If Ronald Reagan jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?

                  1. Speaking of going off of bridges, Edward Kennedy wrote this to a constituent in 1971:

                    “While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life”

                    https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/116256

            2. Mod4ever.

              I posted something below which may be of interest to you. Even in a natural spontaneous miscarriage there are medical issues which are very common. There are very significant medical scientific issues here.

              Just that we should be well informed in our opinions not mislead into thinking this is a nothing issue. I am not inducing my own opinions about ethics of abortion here. My first concern is health and safety of the individual if we are going to have this. It is not trivial and I could care less about the politics.

              1. Saw it an acknowledge your comments.

                1. You are right the political part is about limiting access.

        2. What people are asking is that the drugs in question be treated like other drugs and be available from a pharmacy. The FDA decision restricting the drugs is not based on science but based on politics

          That’s true for about 99% of prescription drugs in the US. So it is, in fact, treated “like other drugs”.

    2. “Yes, abortion is totally safe for everyone.”
      You are only half right.

  4. She should at least need the requisite 2000 hours of training in hair braids to dispense dangerous pharmaceutical cocktails

  5. What on earth happened to Slade? Are they keeping her on the shelf?

    1. Keep nursing that crush, Eddy.

      1. Cute.

        I’d hate to set her against ENB, but when Reason boasts that “look, we have a prolife libertarian,” maybe she can furnish the prolife perspective from time to time.

        They’ve done it once or twice, but wouldn’t it be nice to get Slade’s views not simply on general philosophical terms, but in terms of commenting on abortion-related news stories?

        1. Stephanie Slade literally wants to turn this country into The Handmaid’s Tale by denying access to abortion care. Reason never should have hired her in the first place.

          I mean, what’s next? Are they going to hire somebody who opposes open borders?

          #StandWithPP
          #SaveRoe
          #SUPER-PRECEDENT

        2. They let her write one entire paragraph on that pro-life movie coming out, what more do you want? Gosh

        3. If she is consistent, she will argue these polls should be available over the counter.

        4. Here’s an article she wrote in US News, five years ago – a simple search uncovers it – it’s just as well-written as anything by ENB, only the viewpoint is different –

          https://www.usnews.com/opinion/stephanie-slade/2014/03/10/west-virginia-shows-liberals-are-the-real-abortion-radicals

    2. They’ve never been as good since Noddy left.

  6. “You are being viciously political in blocking my political ideological goals!”

  7. I’m not against the idea of someone being able to sell this stuff without government oversight, but I’m waiting for the case where some asshole switches someone’s pills for funsies and they lose a baby they wanted to keep, because someone was sleeping around and pissed someone else off. Or because they had the audacity to have a different political belief, or because “*insert blood relation here* knew best, trust me you didn’t REALLY want it”.

    1. This is a very probable outcome. Though it will be difficult to prove

    2. You have to be pregnant to buy the pills, or identify as someone who could get pregnant. What could possibly go wrong?

    3. I’m not 100%, but I’m pretty sure that swapping out a person’s medication with deliberate intent to harm them is already illegal.

  8. If God didn’t want us to get abortions, why did he put Queen Anne’s Lace all over the place?

    1. Maybe you should stop taking your policy opinions from God? That might be a good start. Then after that you can ask yourself what is it about the magic trip down the birth canal transforms a lump of cells with no rights into a full human being with full rights.

  9. “Regardless, Wing “could not legally sell prescription drugs because she was not licensed to do so,” the complaint against her states. She allegedly bought the drugs wholesale from a pharmaceutical manufacturer in India. On an application with Western Union, she indicated that she was a retailer of Indian and Moroccan jewelry, clothing, and home goods through the business Morocco International Inc.”

    Sounds like fraud to me: deliberate misrepresentation of a material fact. She was selling abortifacients, not jewelry. She lied on the application.

    Secondarily, there is that pesky licensing thing…

    1. What do you mean, fraud? It said right there on the application, “home goods.”

      /sarc /sarc /sarc

  10. the FDA prevents the sale of mifepristone at pharmacies, making it prohibitively expensive for many Americans who can’t afford to travel to a registered clinic to get the abortion pill

    But how does the price compare to a box of rubbers? I’m all for this stuff being available, but bitching about the price is just stupid.

    1. Problem is red states are closing down all the registered clinics using baseless un-necessary “safety” regulation. This makes it hard to get this medication legally.

      And no, rubbers are not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. They are cheap but have a 15% failure rate.

      1. If you make the argument about cost then everyone against it is going to tell you all the cheaper ways to prevent pregnancy. Because preventing a pregnancy to begin with is cheaper and more ethical than ending a pregnancy.

        The argument should be about the freedom to choose.

  11. i love the stories where i hate all the players.

    1. This guy gets it

  12. bodies to be guided by the science and support the removal of unnecessary regulatory barriers

    Here’s the dillyo on that… “unnecessary regulatory barriers” is the Federal Government’s nickname. So the next time you cheer on the regulatory state for your personal hobby horse, think long and hard about what you’re asking for.

    1. On an application with Western Union, she indicated that she was a retailer of Indian and Moroccan jewelry, clothing, and home goods through the business Morocco International Inc.

      And lastly, putting aside all the ‘what is right, what is wrong’ discussion, when you play these games with the Feds, expect a response.

  13. I do not know how much Ms. Wing is willing to push the envelope, but it would be interesting to see this taken to trial and put to a jury. The right lawyer could use this case to put the system on trial for the way access to these drugs is handled.

    1. My guess is no court in the land will side with her because as we’ve seen in other cases, you destabilize the system when you start carving out oddball exceptions– and the courts probably won’t dare touching anything which essentially would jeopardize the entire drug-regulatory system just to win a positive nod from NOW.

      I see it as the same as the cell-phone-at-the-border issue from yesterday. If you say you need a warrant to search a cell phone at the border, then you’re going to have to justify not needing a warrant to search my bag, my backpack, my car, and my anal cavity at the border, and the courts won’t throw that baby out with the bathwater.

      1. I am not suggesting a court would side with Ms. Wing but a jury might. More likely is a jury would fail to convict (hung jury). Abortion is a very decisive issue. Could you get a jury that would agree on the facts presented in the case without prejudice? Would you put on a juror who is strongly anti-abortion or one strongly proabortion? I think it would make an interesting test case.

        1. “a juror who is strongly anti-abortion or one strongly proabortion”

          That could never happen, because I’ve been assured that nobody is pro-abortion. That’s just a right-wing smear term for supporters of choice and reproductive rights and comprehensive women’s medical care.

          /sarc

          1. Or maybe “pro-abortion” is often just shorthand for wanting it to be legal and available.

            1. Sure, but the fact remains that I’ve been sternly told, more than once, that “nobody is pro-abortion.” Only to have some “pro-choicer” break with the narrative.

              Really, if, say, the head of a Planned Parenthood clinic isn’t pro-abortion, then in what sense was Jefferson Davis pro-slavery?

          2. I think the issue is in how the term is used. An anti-abortion person is absolute in thinking that abortion should be strictly (and in some cases always) limited. The pro-abortion person thinks that abortion should be available to women, but used at the women discretion. Not an absolutist position.

            1. Then Jefferson Davis wasn’t an absolutist either, because he believed that the decision to own a slave was up to each free white person. He simply thought slaves should be available. He didn’t want to force everyone to own one.

              1. We don’t really know Jefferson Davis’s opinion on abortion. We can assume he opposed it because forcing his female slaves to have children would increase his wealth, as each child would be his property and add to his wealth. History tells us he owned over 100 slaves. I don’t know the number of women slaves he held or whether he forced pregnancy on any of them.

                1. Cute.

                  But reasoning by analogy is a perfectly valid way to examine your definitions.

      2. I suspect this prosecution is only happening for similar reasons.

        If they are going to go after the online sellers of Viagra or Xanax they can hardly turn a blind eye when they stumbled upon her operation.

    2. Moderation….I don’t see a repeat of the Scopes trial anytime soon. 🙂

      1. I had not thought of Scopes, was actually thinking Chicago Seven. Maybe because I was thinking it might be on TV every night for a week or so.

  14. Lock her up! Lock her up!!!!

  15. Another rousing meeting of Libertarians For Statist Womb Management.

    A joint meeting, indeed, with Libertarians For Big-Government Micromanagement Of Ladyparts Clinics.

    Carry on, clingers.

  16. Shouldn’t be illegal to sell.

    And the State shouldn’t be involved even if someone is murdered with them.

    -An-Cap

  17. The general abortion issue and politics aside.

    I found a published article in which the authors provided the drugs by telemedicine. After a brief consultation, screening for contraindications, and explanation of risks the drugs were shipped by mail. There are a number of those which are listed in the article.

    Several things I noted. The major complication is incomplete abortion which requires a curettage and evacuation this occurs frequently, around 11%. The second is severe bleeding requiring curettage. This occurred around 2%. One of the guidelines in the article is the woman must be within one hour of a medical facility and have someone at home to help her if needed.

    https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2008.01787.x

    I do think this can be done at home but buying who knows what online with no guidance is a terrible idea.

    1. Looks like you have done your homework. I would agree that buying on-line with no guidance is not the best idea. I would hope that women going this route do it carefully. First would be to confirm the pregnancy with a reliable over the counter test. Consult in person or by telephone with a pregnancy counseling center that offers services in line with your wishes. That center should inform you about the effects and what cautions you take. Finally the woman should have a friend or family member to support/monitor them through the process (not an uncommon thing for a number of medical procedures.

      As for buying medication on-line/overseas. I have several friends doing this for other medications mostly for cost reasons. They did their homework before hand and have been happy with the medication they receive.

      1. And, as we saw with Gosnell (I know, I’m sure he ran the only clinic in America like that), these clinics are nothing if not concerned about the well-being of their clientele. Especially the poorer ones.

  18. If anyone reading this is considering a chemical abortion, check out https://www.abortiondrugfacts.com/ to learn more about the Mifeprex drug, or share your story if you’ve already experienced a chemical abortion.

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