Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Underground Abortion Pill Industry Booming Following Overturning of Roe

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: February 24, 2023
The black market for abortion pills is booming.
Abortion activists rally in 2016 in Belfast, Ireland. Following the Supreme Court of the United States vacating Roe v. Wade, which saw abortion laws leave the auspices of the federal government and return to the state legislatures, the black market for abortion pills has seen a boom. (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The market for underground sales of abortion pills has boomed following the Supreme Court’s May of 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, which shifted abortion laws back into the hands of individual states and away from the auspices of the federal government, according to new reporting by Vice.

The article, penned Feb. 23, cited a figure of 20,000 packages of pills shipped from “neither abortion clinics nor abortion telehealth organizations,” which “instead operate outside of the U.S. legal health care system.”


The figure was pulled from the testimony of an LNP and “midwife” who co-founded a pro-abortion charity.

She stated the 20,000 packages “are specifically for myself, not even the whole organization,” and only represented sales between June and December of 2022.

The woman told Vice that she acquires the pills through a certain organization that mails the pharmaceuticals “through a doctor who is based overseas” to both states where abortion is now illegal, and to states where abortion is still legal.

Vice also noted that in November of 2022, a study from University of Texas researchers found that demand reported by a separate abortion pill access organization had significantly increased following the demise of Roe.

While demand from clients among a cohort of 30 states averaged at 87 requests per day, the figure ballooned to 137 following the controversial leaking of a draft opinion by the Supreme Court overturning the precedent months prior.

Once SCOTUS actually vacated the case law, the average ballooned again to 214.

The concern for advocates of abortion and the women who want to do it is the lingering threat of a ruling from a court case filed last year where pro-life organizations sued the Food and Drug Administration over the drug mifepristone, which may result in its aboveboard sales being blocked.

Feb. 23 reporting by CNN states that for abortion participants, the ban could come at any time, “US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, has extended the briefing deadline in the case until Friday.” 

“He could then issue a ruling at any time on a motion by the plaintiffs to temporarily block use of the medication,” the article adds.

A statement by NARAL Pro-Choice America to CNN stated that the drug is “the most commonly used method of abortion care.”

CNN sourced data from the Guttmacher Institute to discover that as of 2020, pill-induced abortions have accounted for 53 percent of all cases. The figure was as low as 6 percent in 2001.

The erasure of Roe has resulted in less abortions — at least legal ones — according to October of 2022 reporting by FiveThirtyEight that quoted data from abortion advocates the Society of Family Planning “shared exclusively with FiveThirtyEight,” which found that in the two months following the decision, almost 11,000 abortions fell off the charts.

“That figure is a net, counting both declines in some states and increases in others, and it shows how a few states are absorbing some — but not all — of the demand for abortions in states where it’s now banned,” the article stated.

The average monthly number of abortions, according to the data, peaked at around 87,000.

That figure, amounting to more than 1 million abortions per year, contrasts sharply against a national birth rate of 3.65 million in 2021, according to CDC data.

Moreover, FiveThirtyEight’s data showed that in the 15 states where abortion became completely illegal following the change in laws, a monthly average of 22,000 abortions were prevented.

However, states where abortion was still illegal “rose by an aggregate of about 12,000” to compensate.

Notably, some states, especially Southern states such as Texas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, saw a 100 percent reduction in abortions as a result of legislative change.

“If these trends persist, there could be at least 60,000 fewer abortions in the next year as a result of the Dobbs decision,” the article stated.

For women who chose to abort their unborn child using a pharmaceutical compound, the act is not without its legal risks.

In August of 2022, long before Roe was discarded and abortion was still federally protected, Vice reported, based on data from abortion advocates If/When/How, that between 2001 and 2020, 61 people across 26 states had been arrested and criminally charged for “allegedly aborting their own pregnancy or helping someone else do so.”

Vice lamented that the research “offers a stunning glimpse at how people who get abortions in this post-Roe era may be targeted and threatened by law enforcement.”

One of the most notable and recent cases on the subject is that of 17-year-old Celeste Burgess, a resident of Madison County, Alabama, who was criminally charged and is awaiting trial after allegedly both burning and burying her aborted fetus. 

Facing prosecution alongside her is her mother, Jessica Burgess, 41, and 21-year-old Tanner Barnhill, who helped to bury the deceased child.

According to reporting by the Lincoln Journal Star, detectives obtained Burgess’s medical records after being given a tip that she had miscarried, finding she was six months pregnant.

When the detective investigated, Burgess and her mother told him she miscarried in the shower one morning, and so they took the body outside of town and buried it in the ground.

But when the detective subpoenaed Facebook’s parent company Meta for communication records, he discovered chat logs between the mother and daughter indicating the baby was aborted with pills.

“C. Burgess talks about how she can’t wait to get the ‘thing’ out of her body and reaffirms with J. Burgess that they will burn the evidence afterward,” the detective’s notes stated, according to the outlet

Further reporting by Vice on the topic showed the mother reminded the daughter “we burn the evidence,” to which the girl replied, “I will finally be able to wear jeans… [expletive] yes.”

Following the discovery, the mother was charged with two additional charges: “performing or attempting an abortion on a pregnancy at more than 20 weeks, and performing an abortion as a non-licensed doctor.”

Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith, a 32-year veteran prosecutor, told the Journal Star, “I don’t think I’ve ever had a case like this…Usually, abortions are performed in hospitals, and doctors are involved, and it’s not the type of stuff that occurred in this case.”