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Tipsheet

Experts Warn Against Dangerous Methods of ‘DIY Abortions’ Shared on Facebook, TikTok

AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe

USA Today reported Thursday that Google searches for do-it-yourself abortions have skyrocketed since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade late last month. Specifically, searches for herbs like “pennyroyal” and “mugwort” have spiked. Users on Facebook and TikTok claim these herbs can be used to end a pregnancy. Experts are reportedly warning that using these methods to have an abortion could have dangerous effects.

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“One video showing how to muddle these herbs into a drinkable tea has reached more than 250,000 views,” USA Today noted.

Dr. Melissa Simon, a physician and vice chair for research in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine told USA Today she hopes “people don’t take home remedies to accomplish an abortion,” adding that “it’s extremely dangerous.”

USA Today noted that it's nearly impossible to know if a wild plant is safe. Many have toxic compounds.

Pennyroyal contains pulegone, a highly toxic substance that can be particularly damaging to the liver, said Julie Weber, a pharmacist and president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Ingestion can cause gastrointestinal distress such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, according to the National Capital Poison Center. It also can lead to liver and kidney failure, resulting in bleeding, seizures, multiple organ failure and death.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers says it hasn’t seen an increase in call volume related to pennyroyal or other herbal abortifacients, yet, but continues to monitor the National Poison Data System.

Although herbal remedies may appear safe, many plants have toxic compounds, said Norma Fowler, professor in the department of integrative biology at the University of Texas, Austin.

Before ingesting any type of wild plant, Fowler said it’s important to know it's the right species. For the average American, that’s nearly impossible.

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Rachael Piltch-Loeb, associate research scientist at New York University's School of Global Public Health and a preparedness fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told USA Today that “disinformation thrives when there is confusion” in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Townhall covered last week how Facebook and Instagram were reportedly removing content on the platforms offering medication abortion pills. The Associated Press noted that memes and other content explaining how women could obtain abortion pills in the mail exploded after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Many were subsequently removed.

In one example, the AP got a screenshot of an Instagram post from a woman offering to forward abortion pills through the mail. Instagram took it down within moments. An AP reporter tested it out on Facebook, and their post was removed within one minute.

Last week, after the Supreme Court’s ruling, President Biden issued remarks from the White House where he stated that he will protect access to abortion pills. Townhall covered in December how Biden's FDA allowed medication abortion pills to be available by mail-order without an in-person doctor's visit.

“It doesn’t mean the [abortion] fight’s over,” the president said. “My administration will also protect a woman’s access to medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA. Like contraception, which is essential for preventative health care. Mifepristone, which the FDA approved 20 years ago to safely end early pregnancies and is commonly used to treat miscarriages.”

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Pro-life South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem signed an executive order last fall banning telemedicine medication abortions. In an interview with Fox News shortly after, she doubled down on her position.

“Everybody knows that I’m pro-life and do not support any kind of abortions,” Noem said in the interview. “But, here what the Biden administration is doing is trying to put forward abortion on demand. And we’re going to stop them and make sure that that’s not available in our state.”

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