Q: Is it legal to use abortion pills without a clinician?

A small number of people have been unfairly arrested or jailed for using abortion pills that were obtained on their own. In most of these cases, the charges were ultimately dropped or the person was found not guilty. However, the risk of criminalization is a real one. People who self-manage their abortions may risk unjustified arrest and imprisonment under laws that require the abortion pills be given by licensed health care workers and that criminalize self-induced abortion. These laws vary from state-to-state.

In spite of these laws, any person who is experiencing a rare complication from a medication abortion can and should seek follow-up care. That said, there have been cases of people reporting that someone used abortion medication to end their own pregnancy, even though they weren’t required to report it. So the person seeking medical care should be careful not to say that they have used abortion pills. Instead, all they need to say is that they think they’re having a miscarriage.

There is not currently any test that can identify abortion pills in blood or urine. As long as a person doesn’t have the pills on or in their mouth or vagina, there’s no way for a doctor or nurse to know they used the pills at all. Miscarriages happen naturally in 15-20% of all pregnancies, so every hospital in the US can treat them, and the treatment is exactly the same whether the miscarriage is natural or caused by medication.

For more information about legal issues, contact the Repro Legal Helpline.