The black market for abortion pills on Telegram

An exclusive investigation by Wired revealed how the number of avenues for illegal sales of abortion drugs is set to grow massively.

"Buy abortion pills" and "Mifepristone Miseprostol": channels with these types of offers are multiplying on Telegram, according to an investigation by Wired. These are channels and chats within the social network that offer abortion pills that have been banned in several states, especially since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022.

According to Wired's research on Telegram, there are about 210 channels with these kinds of offers. Wired adds that 57 of these channels were active in May. All of these Telegram groups offered the sale of abortion pills explicitly in their names and descriptions. Some of these groups go back as far as 2016, though they have increased in numbers in subsequent years. A package of pills costs around $135 in most groups.

The real boom in the number of active groups was observed in June 2022, when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturned Roe v. Wade, which since 1973 gave legal access to abortion throughout the United States. Since then, state legislation that can conditionally or completely outlaw abortion has been considered constitutional. According to Wired, from that point on, the message groups began to focus much more on potential North American customers. Wired analyzed 47,000 messages from the aforementioned groups to reach this conclusion.

The increase in supply has not been accompanied by an increase in demand. According to Kat Green, a researcher on access to abortion methods in the United States and founder of the big data platform Endora, the results of this Telegram campaign have been minor. The lack of reliability from these purchasing channels is one of the reasons it has faced rejection in the Americas. Additionally, a wide range of abortion drugs remain legal in many U.S. states. Legal prescription access to the abortion pill is, in fact, on an upward trend.

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Pills from India

Wired journalists claim that the same profiles are repeated from group to group to make the same offers. Many of them come from India and, when trying to carry out a transaction, the sender's data directs to Mumbai. Wired contacted some of the profiles offering the pills: doctors Manisha Gupta, Pooja Gupta and Reenu Jain. Each of these profiles, all linked to phone numbers, has around 1,500 messages spread across active Telegram groups.

When Wired asked one of these Telegram vendors if they had had more U.S. customers in recent months, the person replied, "Since the new laws I'm sending to the U.S. a lot more." However, it seems that these India-based groups are more successful in other markets. The largest and most active of Telegram's channels is geared to serve Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar and the Philippines. All of these are countries where there is no legal access to abortion.