When red states rolled back women’s healthcare rights after the Dobbs decision, blue state lawmakers and clinicians stepped up to help patients whose reproductive choices were usurped by religious fanatics. New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont and Colorado passed shield laws to protect resident medical professionals from being prosecuted by red states for prescribing abortion pills for Gilead state patients.
But the medical professionals in shield law states have to mail the pills to their red state patients themselves, at least for now. WaPo has a story featuring one Hudson Valley doc who spends her free time in the basement of her home, packaging abortion pill doses to mail to red state patients.
Gift link here; excerpts below:
A new procedure adopted in mid-June by one of the largest abortion pill suppliers, Europe-based Aid Access, now allows U.S. medical professionals in certain Democrat-led states that have passed abortion “shield” laws to prescribe and mail pills directly to patients in antiabortion states.
The result is a new pipeline of legally prescribed abortion pills flowing into states with abortion bans. In less than a month, seven U.S.-based providers affiliated with Aid Access — including the Hudson Valley doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was concerned for her safety — have mailed 3,500 doses of abortion pills to people in antiabortion states, according to Aid Access, putting just this small group alone on track to help facilitate at least 42,000 abortions in restricted states over the next year. If more doctors and nurses sign up, as current providers hope they will, the numbers could climb far higher.
“Everything I’m doing is completely legal,” the Hudson Valley doctor said, her family’s ping-pong table covered with abortion pills bound for the South and Midwest, where abortion has been largely illegal since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
“Texas might say I’m breaking their laws, but I don’t live in Texas.”
Lawyers quoted in the article say it’s a legal gray area. As long as clinicians don’t travel to states that have criminalized reproductive healthcare, they’re probably safe. One lawyer who’s quoted, Julie F. Kay, legal director of the Abortion Coalition for Telemedicine Access, said that traditional extradition laws don’t make sense in this scenario:
“One state can extradite if a person commits the crime in the state, then flees,” Kay said. “But no one is fleeing here. You are just sitting in your office in New York.”
Anti-choice fanatics will probably stage sting operations and dox providers so violent goons can intimidate them soon enough. That’s what they do. But for now, medical professionals find themselves dealing with the logistics issues an Etsy storekeeper might confront:
“We’re medical providers suddenly thrown into this world of shipping,” said Lauren Jacobson, a nurse practitioner who operates out of Massachusetts. “Do we write labels by hand? What if we mess up an address? How on earth do we ship 50 packages a day?”
Jacobson concedes that this system is far from perfect. While medication abortion is overwhelmingly safe and effective, she said, on rare occasions her patients in restricted states require in-person care — and they fear the legal risk that could come with a trip to the hospital. In those cases, she said she will try to help them navigate their state’s health care system safely, searching online for a trustworthy provider and advising them on what to say. Sometimes, she said, she’ll go on LinkedIn and scope out the local OB/GYNs, searching for someone who has posted something that supports abortion rights.
“This isn’t normal health care,” she said. “We don’t want to have to do this.”
She’s right — it isn’t normal, and they shouldn’t have to do this. But thanks to the fanatics on the Supreme Court and their
co-religionists fellow fanatics in red states (Catholic and protestant), this is the world we’re living in now.
A shield law is expected to pass in California this fall, which will allow a mail-order pharmacy there to handle shipping for the clinicians who are currently running to the post office. The Hudson Valley doc is okay with the current arrangement in the meantime:
For now, she said, she doesn’t mind staying up until 1 a.m. to finish the packing.
“It feels like I’m giving a big middle finger to that part of the country that has done this,” she said.
I like your style, Dr. Hero. Rock on!