Facebook Is Banning People Who Say They Will Mail Abortion Pills

A Facebook user and Motherboard both faced consequences for posting about mailing abortion pills on Facebook on the same day the Supreme Court overturned protections offered by Roe v. Wade.
Facebook office
Image: Josh Edelson/Contributor

Facebook is removing the posts of users who share status updates that say abortion pills can be mailed and in some cases temporarily banning those users.

When exactly Facebook started removing these and similar posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed Facebook removed such posts on the same day that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

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“I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me,” said a message written by one person who was later banned.

The person told Motherboard in an email: “I posted it at 11 a.m. and was notified within a minute that it was removed. I was not notified until I tried to post later that I was banned for it.”

Do you work at a these tech company? Do you have information on how they are handling data with regards to abortion rights? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on jfcox@jabber.ccc.de, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

To corroborate this activity, on Friday a Motherboard reporter attempted to post the phrase "abortion pills can be mailed" on Facebook using a burner account. The post was flagged within seconds as violating the site's community standards, specifically the rules against buying, selling, or exchanging medical or non-medical drugs. The reporter was given the option to “disagree” with the decision or “agree” with it. After they chose “disagree,” the post was removed. 

Motherboard was able to post the phrases "painkiller pills can be mailed," "pills," and "abortion" without issue. Motherboard posted "abortion pills can be mailed" a second time, and it was flagged for removal, and this time the reporter “agreed” with the decision.

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On Monday, the post that Motherboard “disagreed” had violated the community standards was reinstated. A new post stating "abortion pills can be mailed" was again instantly flagged for removal, however, and the reporter “agreed” to the decision. After this, the reporter's Facebook account was suspended for 24 hours due to the posts about abortion pills.

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A screenshot of the post written by Motherboard. Image: Motherboard

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A screenshot of Facebook's enforcement. Image: Motherboard

Facebook’s policy states: “To encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana.”

Facebook did not reply to a request for comment, but after this story was first published Meta spokesperson Andy Stone tweeted that Facebook’s policy doesn’t allow users to “buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals Facebook incorrectly removed some posts.” Stone also said that some posts were incorrectly removed.

When it comes to the legality of mailing abortion pills, there are several telehealth abortion companies in the U.S., and in 2021 the FDA made it possible and legal to send abortion pills via mail. With the fall of Roe v. Wade, some states have banned that, or will: Arizona and Tennessee, for example. In Texas, it's a criminal act to send abortion pills through the mail. This gets further complicated, however, by who does the sending and where that person lives; doctors around the U.S. are concerned about getting themselves and their clinics in trouble for sending medication to a state that has banned abortion.

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UPDATE: This post has been updated with a tweet from Meta spokesperson Andy Stone.