What’s most troubling, though, is that because the anti-choice movement relies on a grisly political message, it would seem the movement has a political interest in stopping the safest and earliest kinds of abortion. In fact, the kinds of procedures Republicans claim to be the most appalled by also happen to be the abortions their policies are most responsible for. These are hurdles put in place by lawmakers who block Medicaid funding for abortion and put clinics out of business through onerous and arbitrary regulations, such as mandating that clinics have specifically sized hallways.
And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the two of the three states with the highest percentage of abortions performed after 15 weeks also happen to have some of the toughest anti-choice laws in the country: Arkansas’s governor signed into law a near-total ban on abortion in March, even in cases of rape and incest; Missouri has only one abortion clinic left in the state.
If conservatives truly wanted to curb later abortions, they wouldn’t make it so incredibly difficult for so many women to get earlier ones. Of course, if their concern were actually about women’s health and safety, they wouldn’t be trying to make abortion illegal at all.
The F.D.A.’s new rule on telemedicine consultations and abortion by mail will soon arm pro-choice organizations with more studies reiterating the safety of medication abortion and show how shipping pills poses no risk to patients. It will also make it that much more difficult for opponents to make specious arguments about unsafe practices.
Exposing this hypocrisy doesn’t come without a risk. If current trends continue, people ending their pregnancies will increasingly do so at home — circumventing the restrictive policies focused on clinics. Without the ability to use science, reason or even scare tactics in their messaging and legislation, Republicans will, as they have in the past, resort to punitive measures. Already, multiple women who have used medication abortion without going through a doctor have been arrested — and in some cases charged.
For women who live far from clinics or who can’t take extended time off work to travel, access to this medication could be the difference between being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy and making safe choices about their own lives and futures.
That’s why it’s so important that those who care about abortion rights redouble their efforts to make medication abortion permanently legally available by mail.
Jessica Valenti is the author of six books on feminism and publishes the newsletter All in Her Head.