A Detroit activist who went viral this week after taking an abortion pill live while doing a local news interview said it was not a gimmick and that they did it to demonstrate "the ease and effectiveness of the medication."
Jex Blackmore, who uses they/them pronouns, appeared on a segment of WJBK FOX 2 Detroit's “Let It Rip" on Sunday to discuss abortion access with host Charlie Langton and Rebecca Kiessling, an advocate and lawyer brought on to argue the antiabortion stance.
During the segment, which was widely shared online, Blackmore holds up a tablet of the hormone blocker mifepristone. “I want to show you how easy it is, and how safe it is, by taking it myself,” they say before downing the pill with a sip of water.
“Are you ... you’re not pregnant, are you?” Langton asked.
“I would say that this is going to end a pregnancy,” Blackmore responded. “This would be my third abortion.”
Blackmore, 36, said that the opportunity to do the TV appearance came at the right time. They confirmed to NBC News they were pregnant and wanted to terminate the pregnancy.
“When I was invited onto ‘Let It Rip’ to discuss the availability of mail-order abortion pills, I thought that it would be an opportunity to demonstrate the ease and effectiveness of the medication, and it happened at the right time for me personally,” Blackmore said in an email. “Taking the medication on live TV, especially a Fox affiliate, allowed the message to reach folks who normally would not be exposed to information about a medical mail order abortion.”
A spokesperson for WJBK FOX 2 Detroit did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.
On the show, Kiessling claimed that abortions are traumatic experiences for patients, and graphically described the procedure. She also said that medical abortions could be reversed by taking progesterone, a practice unfounded in scientific evidence.
Kiessling told NBC News that she thinks Blackmore "did it for shock value, sending press releases and immediately posting on social media bragging that she allegedly took the pill on TV."
"With abortion, a preborn baby does not just magically vanish into thin air by merely swallowing a pill, as some may think," she said in an email. "Jex’s actions are extremely deceiving and make me think of someone pushing a button for a drone strike — it would appear easy enough, but in reality most people understand the carnage which will ensue and should be outraged at the tragic loss of life and the callousness with which it was done."
The statement echoed one Kiessling shared on her Facebook on Jan. 24.
Blackmore said they wished they had more time to respond to Kiessling’s claims on air. Everyone’s body responds differently, and for Blackmore, a medical abortion is akin to an “intense period.” They noted that medical abortions are physically uncomfortable and painful, but they “bleed every month” and “hardly think it to be a traumatic experience.”
The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of mifepristone for medical abortions in 2000, and the course is commonly taken up to eleven weeks into a pregnancy. The medication blocks progesterone, which breaks down the lining of the uterus. It's taken with misoprostol, which causes the uterus to empty like during a period.
The FDA permanently allowed patients to receive abortion pills by mail in December 2021. During the pandemic, the FDA lifted restrictions on mail-order abortions as telehealth services expanded. The new rule could allow people in states with stricter abortion laws, such as Texas, to access safe abortions.
The FDA's decision came after the Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law that would ban most abortions after a heartbeat is detected — usually around six weeks of pregnancy, before some even know they're pregnant. Experts worry that the Texas case and another in Mississippi could gut the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
The truth is that abortion is incredibly safe and doesn't come close to the risk and trauma caused by pregnancy ...people deserve accurate and safe medical information.
abortion activist jex blackmore
Despite the threat to Roe v. Wade, Blackmore said they are encouraged by the progress the abortion rights movement has made over the last decade. They see a "turning of the tide with this new political landscape" as organizers learn from the mistakes of the past and work to expand abortion access locally, not just by lobbying the courts.
"While it's critical that the big dogs fight to protect abortion access in the courts, the rest of us have to organize in our own neighborhoods. We are building and expanding a network of resources that isn't necessarily a target of Republicans," Blackmore said. "We are finding ways of having safe abortions — no need for the coat hanger — self-managed and at home."
Blackmore also said they took the pill on air because they wanted to demonstrate that abortions don’t have to be emotionally devastating or regrettable, which is how the procedure can be portrayed by anti-abortion advocates.
Abortions shouldn’t be shameful, Blackmore added, and people who get them shouldn’t feel guilty for making that decision.
"The truth is that abortion is incredibly safe and doesn't come close to the risk and trauma caused by pregnancy," Blackmore said. "Promoting abortion reversal shows a complete disregard of human dignity and health. People deserve accurate and safe medical information."
CORRECTION (Jan. 28, 2022, 2:30 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misidentified the station that activist Jex Blackmore appeared on. It was WJBK, not KTVU.