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Health Insider outlines risks of using online pharmacies for Plan C

Abortion Pill
Posted at 10:08 AM, Jul 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 08:38:24-04

As abortion access is cut off in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned and judges and lawmakers working to define medical terms and timelines, doctors are seeing confusion between conception, contraception, miscarrying and terminating.

The differences are important as more women are using online pharmacies to self-manage abortions.

ABC15 Health Insider Dr. Janice Johnston, Medical Director for Redirect Health, is clarifying terms and outlining the risks of taking the abortion pill without talking to a doctor.

The 'morning after' pill, also known as Plan B, is legally sold over the counter. You take it within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

"It's important people understand this is a form of birth control, we call it emergency contraception, this is not an abortion," said Dr. Johnston.

When Plan B doesn't prevent pregnancy, the 'abortion pill' is now becoming known as Plan C.

"We use the term abortion pill very loosely but it is two different medications that we use at two different times."

Dr. Johnston says the term abortion pill can be misleading because it's also widely prescribed during a miscarriage. In that instance, the medication helps clear the uterus and can save the mother from severe illness.

"There is certainly a misconception because the medical term that we use for a pregnancy that hasn't gone all the way is a missed abortion," she said.

The process is similar for terminating an unwanted pregnancy so there are fears some doctors will be hesitant to prescribe it.

Some women are also turning to online pharmacies to order Plan C and manage abortions themselves.

Whether for a miscarriage or termination, the medication isn't safe for everyone, like those with blood clotting issues or ectopic pregnancy.

"We do see a fair amount of patients with those conditions, sometimes they're unaware of that," said Dr. Johnston.

Online pharmacies are charging $200-$400 for unverified abortion pills, some coming from other countries, and you don't have to talk to a doctor before or after taking them, which is where the real danger lies if questions come up.

"'What happens if things go wrong? How long is bleeding normal? What if I get a fever?' There are things that can happen, sometimes they can be normal and self-limiting, sometimes they can need help and medical direction."

Telehealth is also being used more, conducted by doctors in states where abortion is legal, so you get doctor interaction but there are state licensing laws to be wary of.

There are also non-profits like working to help women navigate physician-supported sites so they don't miss critical medical advice.