Instagram and Facebook remove posts offering abortion pills

by Brent G. Oneal

WASHINGTON — Facebook and Instagram immediately began removing posts offering abortion pills to women who may not have access to them, following a Supreme Court decision that removed constitutional protections from the procedure.

Such social media posts were ostensibly designed to help women living in states where pre-existing laws banning abortion suddenly appeared on Friday. Then the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that declared access to abortion a constitutional right.

Memes and status updates explaining how women could legally get abortion pills in the mail exploded on social platforms. Some even offered to mail the prescriptions to women in states that now prohibit the procedure.

Instagram and Facebook remove posts offering abortion pills

Almost immediately, Facebook and Instagram began deleting some of these posts, just as millions in the US sought clarity about access to abortion. General mentions of abortion pills and positions mentioning specific versions, such as mifepristone and misoprostol, suddenly surfaced Friday morning on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and TV broadcasts, according to an analysis by media intelligence firm Zignal Labs.

By Sunday, Zignal had counted more than 250,000 such entries.

The AP received a screenshot Friday of an Instagram post by a woman who offered to buy or forward abortion pills through the mail minutes after the court ruled to override the constitutional right to abortion.

“DM me if you want to order abortion pills but send them to my address instead of yours,” it reads on Instagram.

Instagram removed it in moments. Vice Media first reported Monday that Meta, the parent of both Facebook and Instagram, was releasing posts about abortion pills.

On Monday, an AP reporter tested how the company would respond to a similar Facebook post, in which he wrote, “If you send me your address, I’ll send you abortion pills.”

The message was removed within a minute.

The Facebook account was immediately given “warning status” for the post, which Facebook said violated “weapons, animals and other regulated goods” standards.

But when the AP reporter posted the same post but swapped the words “abortion pills” for “a gun,” the post went untouched. A message with the same offer to email “weed” was also left and was not considered a violation.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and sending it through the mail is prohibited.

However, abortion pills can be obtained legally by mail after an online consultation from prescribers who have undergone certification and training.

In an email, a Meta spokesperson pointed out company policies prohibiting the sale of certain items, including weapons, alcohol, drugs, and pharmaceuticals. The company has not explained the apparent discrepancies in enforcing that policy.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone confirmed in a tweet Monday that the company will not allow individuals to donate or sell drugs on its platform but will allow content that shares information about how to access pills. Stone acknowledged issues with enforcing that policy on his platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

“We have identified and are correcting some instances of incorrect enforcement,” Stone said in the tweet.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Friday that states should not ban mifepristone, the drug used to induce abortion.

“States should not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s judgment of its safety and efficacy,” Garland said in a statement Friday.

But some Republicans have already tried to stop residents from getting abortion pills through the mail, with some states such as West Virginia and Tennessee banning health care providers from prescribing the medication via telemedicine consultation.

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