panic started Jada took the exam in early July. The results came back positive and a quick count indicated she was seven weeks pregnant. It was a bad time. Her mother had just died, and Florida, where she lives, introduced restrictions in April that barred people from using telehealth appointments to get abortion pills. Jayda, a 20-year-old who asked to be identified using a pseudonym to protect her privacy, tried to make an appointment with Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides sexual health services in the United States. But the wait time is two weeks. “It seemed like a lifetime,” she said.
Instead, she turned to the world of unregulated sites selling abortion pills or MTP kits — a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, used to terminate a pregnancy. As restrictions tighten across U.S. states, a network of companies and nonprofits across the continent has sprung up to deliver the pills to places with restricted access. Some are driven by ideology, others by profit and opportunism. But all of this is a legal grey area where regulators seem unable or unwilling to exercise their powers.
Jayda discovered the network after a frantic Google search led her to a website called Plan C, which lists online pharmacies that ship abortion pills to states in the United States. She poured all her options into it. “I was panicking,” she said. “I want to get the medicines as soon as possible, I don’t want to spend a fortune on them, but I also want them to be as legal as possible.”
AbortionRX, an online pharmacy, stands out. The site’s home page displays stock images of smiling women, with text that appears clunky as if written by someone who is not fluent in English. But AbortionRX promised to deliver the pills to Florida within eight days in exchange for $250. Women on Reddit share their positive experiences. “The sites look a little sketchy, but they are legit,” one post read. That’s the comfort Jada needs. She clicks “Order Now” and pays.
According to domain registrars, AbortionRX’s web address was registered from Amsterdam. The packaging showed that Jayda received one tablet of mifepristone 200 mg and four tablets of misoprostol 200 mg, made by Indian pharmaceutical giant Zydus. They were shipped from India to an unknown location in the US, where they were waiting for buyers. AbortionRX did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but when WIRED asked a customer service representative where the pills were shipped from, the person replied: “We ship to the U.S.” Jada’s pills were posted in an unremarkable Inside a small brown envelope with a California return address on it.
When asked about the company’s relationship with the Zydus-branded abortion pill, a Zydus spokesperson said: “We do not own the product and we are not currently marketing it in India or any other region.”
“Most of the pills we see are from Indian manufacturers,” said Elisa Wells, co-founder and co-director of Plan C. “They may come directly from these companies, but I suspect not. I suspect someone built this pharmacy website, And somehow buy the pills in bulk and ship them out.” Abortion pills can be found off pharmacy shelves for around $5 in many countries, she said.
One of the entrepreneurs is someone who goes by the pseudonym Chris Jones. Jones, who declined to give his real name in case his operations are illegal, runs the website Medside24, which is also included in Plan C. He started his business in Moscow before moving to Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, after Russia invaded Ukraine. All of the company’s clients are in the U.S., and most of them are referred from Plan C, he said. Medside24 sells an average of 15 abortion kits a day, and Jones says its profit margin is 50 percent.