A live segment Sunday on WJBK in Detroit was shaping up to be a standard debate between two advocates from the abortion rights and antiabortion camps.
"Let It Rip" host Charlie Langton opened the discussion, asking abortion rights advocate Jex Blackmore about the Food and Drug Administration's decision in December to allow abortion pills to be prescribed via telehealth and shipped to patients in the mail.
After explaining how the mail-order system worked and arguing that the drugs are "incredibly safe," Blackmore held up a white pill. She explained it was the first of two that a person would take to terminate a pregnancy. "I want to show you how easy it is, and safe it is, by taking it myself," she said.
Blackmore then popped it into her mouth.
Appearing bewildered, Langton asked: "You're not pregnant, are you?"
"I would say that this is going to end a pregnancy," Blackmore replied. "This would be my third abortion."
Rebecca Kiessling, an advocate and lawyer brought on to argue the antiabortion stance, dropped her jaw slightly, closed her eyes and shook her head. After the show, Kiessling later wrote in a Facebook post, "I just broke down in tears."
Video: Abortion rights activists demonstrate outside Supreme Court in Dec. 2021
The show had been scheduled during the weekend of the 49th anniversary of the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which established abortion as a constitutional right. In December, the Supreme Court indicated that it may uphold a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks - which could pare back, or overturn, Roe and the 1992 affirming decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
About two weeks later, the Biden administration eliminated a long-standing rule that the abortion pill medication mifepristone needed to be dispensed in person. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, mifepristone is used in conjunction with another drug, misoprostol, to carry out medical abortions. Mifepristone blocks a hormone needed for pregnancy, while misoprostol empties the uterus. The regimen is considered safe within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, according to the FDA.
Despite the FDA's relaxing of the rules, 19 states still prohibit receiving the drugs through telehealth appointments, while at least 16 states are working to restrict it, The Washington Post reported. In Michigan, where Blackmore's interview was broadcast, it is legal to receive an abortion pill prescription via telemedicine, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In an email to The Washington Post, Blackmore said her on-air claim was no charade, insisting that she took mifepristone, the first of the two pills, to end a pregnancy.
"Abortion is a common and safe medical procedure surrounded by stigma," Blackmore wrote. "Stigma keeps people silent about their personal experiences and creates space for harmful, inaccurate narratives. My action was intended to dispel some of those myths, misinformation, and stigma."
Blackmore is an abortion rights advocate and former spokeswoman for the Satanic Temple, a nontheistic organization, according to its website. In 2015, Blackmore blogged about the days leading up to one of her abortions as a way to detail the complexities of her decision amid what she described as a lack of shared experiences from women in her position, The Post reported.
During Sunday's show, Kiessling, the antiabortion advocate, said the abortion pill is reversible using certain hormones - a claim the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says is "not based on science" and one that does "not meet clinical standards."
In her subsequent Facebook post, Kiessling described Blackmore's actions as callously beginning "the process of killing her baby on TV."
"It's like someone pushing a button for a drone strike on innocent victims like it's nothing because they don't see them," Kiessling wrote, "while the rest of us are fully aware of the carnage to ensue, the shocking loss of life."
In light of the Supreme Court's leaving in place a Texas law that bans most abortions after six weeks - and its signaling to uphold the Mississippi law - Blackmore told The Post that the "anti-abortion movement has been celebrating what looks like a victory to them, but this victory is largely symbolic."
"With medical mail order abortion," she added, "we've actually expanded access more than ever before."