Sally Kaye: Abortion options stay on the internet — for now

Sally Kaye: Abortion options stay on the internet — for now

When my family moved from Honolulu to Lanai in 1974, Hawaiian Airlines offered a daily DC-9 flight, there were a few flights on small Royal Hawaiian Air Service Cessnas, no ferry, and only three network TV stations. No FedEX, no UPS and if you wanted chicken you had it in frozen 2 pound boxes. A Sears catalog was how you organized your off-island shopping, from Christmas gifts to clothing to appliances.

It goes without saying that there was no internet.

I bet I’m not the only one who thinks I could take this life back – except living without internet access would be unthinkable. After more than two years of pandemic restrictions and isolation, there is no doubt that the internet and all the data, information and products available through it are now even more crucial to our lives than ever.

Take telehealth for example.

Not only has telehealth become mainstream so that we can talk to our doctors wherever they are without risk, but as the pandemic has grown in 2020, the United States Food and Drug Administration has taken action proactive in making generic drugs more available – via the Internet.

And since December, we can now get medicine to end an unwanted pregnancy in the privacy of our own homes – thanks to the internet.

After reviewing what is called a “risk assessment and mitigation strategy” for the drug mifepristone, the FDA decided to remove previous requirements that the drug should only be administered in a clinic, hospital or by a certified medical provider – even though the patient could then take the medication at home and ingest it on their own.

Apparently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists had been of the view for some time that FDA requirements “disproportionately burden communities that already face structural barriers to care, including people of color and those living long distances from a medical professional”.

Sound like Hawaii to you? It certainly defines Lanai and most of Maui County.

I did an internet search and easily found two sites where one can get the pregnancy termination medication and check out related resources.

One is Aid Access founded by Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts in 2018, which operates in the United States but does so from an international site. The second, Abortion On Demand, registered as a business in Hawaii in March and launched telehealth services in April.

Since then, AOD founder Dr. Jamie Phifer said they “were seeing a handful of Hawaiian patients daily, a higher proportion relative to the state’s population than the larger states we serve.” .

According to Leah Coplon, director of clinical operations, AOD only operates in the 22 states where abortion is still legal and complies with the requirements of each of those states, such as filing reports with health departments. While the organization doesn’t reveal specific numbers or track island-by-island inquiries, it said the AOD has developed relationships with local clinics here in Hawaii if patients need follow-up care.

If anyone contacts them about alternatives, AOD recommends All-Options, which it describes as “an excellent, agenda-free Internet resource that provides a wide range of services” ranging from adoption information to layer support. (Diapers, as every parent knows, are a necessity, but they’re apparently not covered by food stamps, WIC, or social benefits.) a purely educational resource.

The AOD website is a no-frills, no-judgment space, as staff believe that “whatever the reason for terminating a pregnancy is the right reason. We don’t judge, we just support. AOD donates 60% of its profits to support physical clinics for pregnant women beyond the point where medical abortion is an option, and Coplon said if Roe vs. Wade is reversed, “I don’t know what the impact will be, but we will continue to provide options in states where abortion remains legal.”

Supreme Court rally for abortion rights Roe v. Wade Mississippi
Abortion rights advocates rally outside Supreme Court over case that could overturn 1973 ruling Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Courtesy: Ku’ualoha Ho’omanawanui/2021

Then there are the other guys

I started thinking about the internet and my choices when I came across some action plans posted by a candidate for Hawaii’s lieutenant governor, Seaula Jr. Tupai. One, listed under ‘supporting women’s rights’, makes it clear that this candidate intends to do the exact opposite: he would limit an unhappy pregnant woman’s choice to putting her in touch with people willing to adopt so he can save “the lives they carry within them”. their bellies. He doesn’t mention any exceptions.

And there are places on the internet like Abort73.com, an “educational resource” whose only South Carolina-based employee told me that he “doesn’t typically interact with pregnant women on a one-to-one basis. and less than 1% of its web traffic in 2021 came from Hawaii. A visit to the site shows that you can find a healthy dose of judgment here, and aside from donations, Abort73 sells gear to support itself.

I hope some of you have seen the recently released film “The Last Duel”, a true story of a woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted in late 1300s France. During a trial of the accused, a cleric offered this breathtaking line: “A rape cannot cause a pregnancy. It’s all science!” (The film is available online from Amazon.)

Of course, this is a tale of a time when women were the property of their fathers or husbands. So, shocking as such idiocy seems to us now – now that we can have our own credit cards and own our own homes – should we feel relieved that that was then and this is now? I do not think so.

It’s been over 600 years, and some men still make that absurd claim.

In 1980, Leon Holmes (a recently retired federal judge from Arkansas) proposed a constitutional ban on abortion based on the idea that “conceptions from rape occur at about the same frequency as snowfall in Miami”; former Pennsylvania State Rep. Stephen Freind agreed in 1988 (assaulted woman “leaks a certain secretion” that kills sperm); Henry Aldridge of North Carolina said so in 1995 (women “who really get raped — the juice doesn’t flow” so they can’t get pregnant); and Todd Akin of Missouri repeated it as recently as 2012 (women can’t get pregnant after “legitimate rape”).

Leaving aside for a moment what might constitute “legitimate” rape, science tells a different story: According to a 1996 study published by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, more than 32,000 women become pregnant each year because of rape, and in 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 3 million women in the United States experience rape-related pregnancies in their lifetime. I bet they could fall into the group of unhappy pregnant women, right?

I’ll save what I learned about adoption in Hawaii for a future column. For now, I’m just thankful for the internet and the laws that allow for the choice it offers.

I hope that you too.

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