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Hotline Founder on the Struggle to Preserve Access to Abortion Pills Amid Relentless GOP Attacks

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We look at access to medical abortion pills and advice on how to manage abortions at home with Dr. Linda Prine, physician and co-founder of the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline. Prine says the hotline is increasingly busy and now has 70 clinicians taking calls for 18 hours each day. She says the laws restricting abortion pills do not prevent access, “they just make it harder,” and that “we want people to be able to get their pills in a timely fashion, as they did prior to Dobbs.” Prine also discusses the need for shield laws to protect access to the abortion pill, and allegations of so-called abortion trafficking.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

In light of the recent abortion rulings in federal courts, we look at how patients will be able to access abortion and abortion pills. Dr. Linda Prine is a physician and co-founder of the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline. She works with providers and groups to increase access to abortion pills. Dr. Prine is also affiliated with the Abortion Coalition for [Tele]medicine Access, or ACT Access.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us, Dr. Prine. If you can talk about how this decision — again, it doesn’t go into effect for seven days, and the attorney general has already said that he’s appealing this decision. But what this means, and the significance of mifespristone?

DR. LINDA PRINE: Sure. Thank you, Amy.

Well, really, abortion access has always been a problem in our country, because we don’t have universal access to medical care, and many millions of people are uninsured. And even for those insured, abortion is often not covered. People have trouble — have had trouble getting abortions for a long time. And it got worse with S.B. 8 in Texas, and now it got really worse with the Dobbs decision, and it may be about to get even worse yet again with this Texas decision.

Our Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline, which we founded in 2019, has seen the effects of these decisions over time with increased calls and increased calls for “Where can I get abortion pills?” The beauty of the abortion pills is that people can get them through telemedicine, or even from online pharmacies overseas, and use them in the privacy of their own homes, without having to cross picket lines, and even in restricted states. So, that’s what our hotline is all about, is answering calls from people who are self-managing abortions and are doing it at home without necessarily any medical advice. So we are there to talk to them about what’s going on, either how to get the pills or what to expect as they’re using them. We talk them through that process. We have gotten increasingly busy in the last four years, since we founded the hotline, to the point where now we have 70 clinicians taking call for 18 hours out of every day. And we’re very busy talking to people about these issues. So, we expect that this is going to only get worse with time and with this decision in Texas.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Prine, you’ve talked about shield laws for telemedicine abortions at the cutting edge of pro-choice lawmaking. What do you mean?

DR. LINDA PRINE: So, the blue states have been passing laws to protect abortion care in their states. We need them to take it a step further. We need them to pass laws that would allow us, the clinicians in these blue states, to provide telemedicine abortion into the restricted states. It’s not enough to just safeguard abortion within the walls of our state. We need to be helping people in these restricted states and mailing pills to them quickly.

What we’ve seen happen on the hotline is that people are still getting their abortion pills. People know how to get abortions. These laws do not prevent abortion access. They just make it harder, and people are getting their pills later in pregnancy. And we’re hearing about that on the hotline, and it’s really quite a miserable process when they’re using their pills at 14 weeks, at 18 weeks, at 20 weeks. We want people to be able to get their pills in a timely fashion, as they did prior to Dobbs, when most abortions were done under eight weeks with the abortion pills.

So, the idea of the shield laws is that we can prescribe the pills through telemedicine abortion to people no matter where they live, protected by our New York state, California state, Washington state laws that will say, for the purposes of this telemedicine encounter, it is occurring in the state where the clinician is sitting. So, if we can get those laws passed, that will greatly expand access for all these restricted states. And we need our pro-choice legislators to step up and help us get care to people in need.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you, finally, Dr. Prine, about our headline Friday, Idaho Republican Governor Brad Little signing a bill criminalizing the act of helping someone under the age of 18 obtain an abortion in another state without parental consent. The first so-called abortion trafficking law passed in the United States carries penalties of two to five years. Alexis McGill Johnson, who we had on today, said the law will isolate young people, put them in danger, including those who are in abusive situations. What about this term they are coining, “abortion trafficking”?

DR. LINDA PRINE: It’s just horrifying language. I mean, we’re used to that by now. The horrifying language that comes from these right-wing lunatics is — I think we just have to ignore it and move on and get care to people who need it. And we will do that. The telemedicine providers across the country are going to continue to mail pills, despite this Texas decision, despite the Dobbs decision. We are going to get pills to people as best we can.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Linda Prine, physician and co-founder of the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline.

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