According to a survey released Thursday, 54% of abortions in the United States are now performed using abortion pills, rather than surgery, Reuters reports. The survey was published by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization dedicated to sexual and reproductive rights. The report reflects a continued increase in use: in 2017, medical abortions accounted for 39% of abortions, and in 2019, they accounted for 44%. It’s also important to note that the Institute collects data from all known U.S. abortion providers, which means these numbers only include clinician-supervised services (not self-managed abortions).
In 2000, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved mifepristone, the abortion pill or medical abortion, as a method of terminating pregnancies up to 10 weeks old. Mifepristone (marketed as Mifeprex) is taken within seven weeks of the first day of your last period and works by blocking progesterone, a hormone that prepares the uterus for pregnancy. This process causes the uterine lining to thin, preventing the embryo from developing. Mifepristone is taken in combination with misoprostol (marketed as Cytotec), a few hours or days later, which causes the uterus to contract and the embryo to be ejected from the vagina.
Guttmacher Institute researchers say “the COVID-19 pandemic has likely accelerated” the use of abortion pills in recent years, with “increased attention to the benefits of telehealth” helping to make the pills much more accessible . As SELF previously reported, in December 2021 the FDA permanently cleared mail-order abortion pills, meaning people living in remote locations could receive the pills from a medical worker or pharmacy. certified by post.
This decision was made, in part, because abortion pills are generally very safe when used appropriately. According to the FDA: “Mifeprex is safe and effective when used to terminate pregnancy according to revised labeling.” Complications associated with the branded version of the drug are indeed rare. As of June 2021, there have been 26 deaths linked to mifepristone since it was first cleared by the FDA 21 years ago. In this group, there were two cases of ectopic pregnancy (which occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus) and several cases of sepsis, which means the pill was not the only factor involved in the death.
Use of the abortion pill has steadily increased since it was first authorized just over two decades ago. Despite the pill’s safety, abortion remains a bitterly divisive issue, with the Supreme Court currently weighing significant changes to reproductive rights, according to NPR.
“Given the reality of the 6-3 anti-abortion majority in the U.S. Supreme Court that is now poised to seriously weaken or overturn Roe vs. Wade bluntly, medical abortion is likely to become even more critical in providing care to many people who may not have access to care in a clinic,” the Guttmacher Institute wrote in its report. As you probably already know, Roe vs. Wade was the landmark 1973 case that led to the right to terminate a pregnancy before the fetus was viable, at around 24 weeks. In recent years, several states, including Texas and Mississippi, have passed laws that severely restrict access to abortion. If the Supreme Court, currently considering a Mississippi case, allows the state to ban abortions after 15 weeks, activists expect that deer could be canceled soon after, according to CNN. The Guttmacher Institute report therefore recommends that lawmakers take action and “double their efforts to codify, strengthen, and further expand” policies that protect sexual and reproductive rights in the United States.