Facebook and Instagram have begun removing posts related to abortion pills, as posts about such medication spiked following the supreme court’s ruling stripping away constitutional protections for abortions.
Memes and status updates explaining how people can obtain abortion pills in the mail have exploded across social platforms in recent days.
General mentions of abortion pills, as well as posts mentioning specific versions such as mifepristone and misoprostol, suddenly spiked on Friday morning across Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and TV broadcasts, according to an analysis by the media intelligence firm Zignal Labs. By Sunday, Zignal had counted more than 250,000 such mentions.
Some of the posts demonstrated how people can legally obtain medication abortion by mail across the US, through abortion telehealth services like Hey Jane, Just the Pill, and Choix in states where such healthcare is legal.
In other posts individual users offered to mail prescriptions to women living in states that criminalized abortion following Friday’s supreme court decision.
Meanwhile, underground abortion pill networks have begun to pop up, said Eric Feinberg, a researcher at the Coalition for a Safer Web. Screenshots provided to the Guardian showed Mifepristone for sale in private Facebook groups with names like “MTP Kit and Other Pills” and “Cleaning and Abortion Pills”.
Almost immediately, Facebook and Instagram began removing some of the posts directly offering pills to people, Vice Media first reported on Monday.
The Associated Press obtained a screenshot on Friday of one Instagram post from a woman who offered to purchase or forward abortion pills through the mail, minutes after the court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.
“DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to my address instead of yours,” the post on Instagram read. Instagram took it down within moments.
On Monday, an AP reporter tested how Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, would respond to a similar post on Facebook, writing: “If you send me your address, I will mail you abortion pills.” The post was removed within one minute.
The Facebook account was immediately put on a “warning” status for the post, which Facebook said violated its standards on “guns, animals and other regulated goods”.
Yet, when the AP reporter made the same exact post but swapped out the words “abortion pills” for “a gun”, the post remained untouched. A post with the same exact offer to mail “weed” was also left up and not considered a violation.
In an email, a Meta spokesperson pointed to company policies that prohibit the sale of certain items, including guns, alcohol, drugs and pharmaceuticals. The company did not explain the apparent discrepancies in its enforcement of that policy, including the ongoing issue of guns being sold openly on its platform.
A Meta spokesperson, Andy Stone, confirmed in a tweet on Monday that the company will not allow individuals to gift or sell pharmaceuticals on its platform, but will allow content that shares information on how to access pills.
Stone acknowledged some problems with enforcing that policy across its platforms, which include Facebook and Instagram. “We’ve discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these,” Stone said in the tweet.
Most states in the US allow abortion pills to be administered via mail, while 19 prohibit such medication from being taken at home without a medical provider present. More than half of all abortions in the US are medication abortions, according to pro-choice research group the Guttmacher Institute.
The US attorney general, Merrick Garland, said on Friday that states should not ban mifepristone, the medication used to induce an abortion.
“States may not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy,” Garland said in a Friday statement.
But some Republicans have already tried to stop their residents from obtaining abortion pills through the mail, with some states like West Virginia and Tennessee prohibiting providers from prescribing the medication through telemedicine consultation.