FLORIDA — A physician not licensed in the state of Florida has been traveling across the state promoting shady ways to obtain abortion pills. Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an OB-GYN from the Pacific Northwest, says Floridians can easily circumvent Florida law and obtain the pills by mail.
Lincoln, the Executive Director of Mayday Health – a nonprofit founded after the Dobbs v. Jackson women’s health decision – wants to help patients in states that have abortion restrictions figure out how to get them anyway.
Since Governor DeSantis signed Florida’s Heartbeat Protection Act, Lincoln has handed out thousands of how-to flyers from Miami Beach to Tallahassee.
BUYING BLACK-MARKET PILLS
The Florida Standard tested the process of purchasing black market pills through one of the websites recommended by Dr. Lincoln. According to Florida law, abortion pills cannot be purchased at pharmacies or ordered by mail. The medication must be dispensed by a physician in person.
In addition, all women seeking abortion in the state must have an ultrasound and be evaluated by a physician.
We tested a website that uses a European prescriber who will ship the pills directly to Florida from an Indian pharmacy. When completing the online form, we stated that we are currently 12 weeks pregnant and under the age of 18.
The prescriber said they would send us the pills and we should expect delivery in one to three weeks. In this case, an underage individual would be taking the medication well past 13 weeks of gestation, outside of the FDAs recommended safe-use range of ten weeks of pregnancy or less.
Florida restricts how the pills are dispensed because of the possibility of severe complications, depending on the individual. So why is a physician from another state encouraging women to order unapproved pills from a foreign physician and take them without medical supervision?
“The action she is promoting violates many laws,” Denise Harle, attorney and senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom told The Florida Standard. “At a minimum Florida law requires that before an abortion, a woman must have an ultrasound and provide informed consent.”
Harle says the drug regimen is extremely dangerous. Data from a November 2021 study found the majority of pregnant women who took abortion pills presented with serious complications in the form of bleeding, incomplete/missed abortion, and ectopic pregnancy.
Women who experience very heavy bleeding with a chemical abortion may require a blood transfusion or even a surgical procedure. The study concluded that women who take these pills should do so only under strict medical supervision.
One of the chief arguments against the FDA in a recent lawsuit seeking to stop the sale of the abortion pill nationwide is that the agency misused its authority when it originally approved the drug mifepristone. In addition to challenging mifepristone’s approval process, the lawsuit targets several FDA decisions that loosened restrictions on the pills and eliminated a requirement that women pick it up in person.
FREE SPEECH OR MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?
On her Instagram account, Dr. Lincoln recently shared a photo of abortion pills in the palm of her hand while standing in front of a Miami Beach lifeguard tower. On social media, Lincoln shamelessly tells women to stay away from crisis pregnancy centers and encourages followers to spread the word that these pills can be obtained in all 50 states, regardless of the law.
But is she asserting her First Amendment right to free speech, or is she practicing medicine without a license by encouraging women to illegally obtain harmful drugs that are restricted for a reason?
“We at Alliance Defending Freedom believe very strongly in the First Amendment right to free speech,” Harle tells the Florida Standard. “But there are limits to it. She’s putting herself out there giving medical advice about how to undergo a chemical abortion.”
In early January, the FDA began allowing pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens to fill a prescription for abortion pills – but not in Florida. Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) sent warning letters to pharmacies reminding them that abortion pills can only be administered by a physician in person.
Florida statute Chapter 390, Section 0111 states that “no termination shall be performed at any time except by a licensed physician” and that “it is unlawful for any person to perform or assist in performing an abortion on a person, except in an emergency care situation, other than in a validly licensed hospital or abortion clinic or in a physician's office.”