Olivia Rodrigo gave emergency contraceptives to fans, not 'abortion pills'

Online articles and social media posts claim singer Olivia Rodrigo passed out "abortion pills" to fans at her show in Missouri – a US state with a near-total ban on the procedure. This is false; the pop star gave concertgoers emergency contraception, which prevents pregnancy and is legal nationwide.

"Pop Star Olivia Rodrigo Passes Out Abortion Pills to Fans, Shoves Pro-Choice Message in Faces of Gen Z," says a March 13, 2024 article from the Western Journal, a conservative website that AFP has previously fact-checked.

The narrative also spread on X, where a March 14 post says: "olivia rodrigo is distributing free abortion pills to teenage girls at her concerts. she’s also donating proceeds from her tour to fund abortions.

"i knew this former disney kid was a satanic industry plant from the time she was invited to the white house to promote vaccines."

<span>Screenshot from X taken March 15, 2024</span>
Screenshot from X taken March 15, 2024

Other articles and posts on X, Facebook and Instagram make similar claims.

Rodrigo announced the reproductive rights initiative Fund 4 Good ahead of her 2024 "Guts" world tour (archived here). She caused an uproar at a March 12 show in St Louis, Missouri, after passing out emergency contraceptives in partnership with two advocacy groups: the Missouri Abortion Fund and Right By You.

Claims that she distributed "abortion pills" to concertgoers are false. Instead, fans received free boxes of Julie, a morning-after pill available over the counter, as well as condoms and abortion access resources.

"Morning-after pills, or emergency contraception pills, prevent or delay ovulation. They don’t harm or interrupt pregnancy, which can only occur after ovulation happens," Siripanth Nippita, a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University (archived here), told AFP on March 21, 2024.

Guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the World Health Organization back that up (archived here, here and here).

However, many Americans conflate emergency contraceptives with abortifacients, which end a pregnancy after a fertilized egg has been implanted in the lining of the uterus.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 73 percent of adults "incorrectly think that emergency contraceptive pills can end a pregnancy in its early stages," while a third are unsure if emergency contraception is legal in their state (archived here).

The active ingredient in medications such as Julie is levonorgestrel, which is FDA-approved (archived here).

"All methods of contraception are legal in all US states," Nippita said. However, the same cannot be said for abortion pills.

Abortifacient access varies

The US Supreme Court's 2022 decision to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion a constitutional right, sparked rapid changes in reproductive rights across the country.

Twenty-one states have implemented full or partial abortion bans, and some Republicans are pushing for a nationwide prohibition as the 2024 presidential election draws near.

Missouri has banned "all abortions except to save the life of the pregnant person," according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, an advocacy group (archived here). There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

The use of medication -- rather than surgical procedures -- to terminate pregnancy has risen steadily since the FDA approved the abortion drug mifepristone in 2000, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which campaigns for abortion rights.

However, access varies from state to state.

In Missouri, medical professionals must distribute abortifacients in person (archived here). In other states, new FDA rules allow patients to pick up prescribed medication at pharmacies that meet certain criteria (archived here).

In early March 2024, Walgreens and CVS announced it would start filling mifepristone prescriptions in states where abortion is legal.

AFP has fact-checked other claims about abortion here.