More than half of recent abortions in the United States have been performed with abortion pills, according to preliminary data released Thursday, a sign that medical abortion has increasingly become the most accessible and preferred method of terminating a pregnancy.
The report, published by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, found that in 2020 medical abortion – a two-pill method licensed in the United States for pregnancies up to 10 weeks gestation – accounted for 54% of all abortions. The figure represents a substantial increase from the institute’s previous report, which found the method accounted for 39% of abortions in 2017.
The increase in medical abortions is most likely the result of several factors. The method – which is cheaper and less invasive than surgical abortions – had already become increasingly common before the coronavirus pandemic, in part due to restrictions in conservative states that imposed barriers to surgical methods, especially later. in pregnancy.
In 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which collects data by contacting all known abortion providers in the country, almost a third of clinics only offered medical abortion. In 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which did not include California, Maryland and New Hampshire, the pills accounted for 42% of all abortions – and 54% of abortions early enough to be eligible for benefits. drugs because they occurred before 10 weeks of gestation.
The pandemic has fueled this trend, as medical groups have filed a lawsuit asking the federal government to lift the Food and Drug Administration’s requirement that the first of two abortion pills, mifepristone, be dispensed to patients. in person at a clinic or doctor’s office. Citing years of data showing that medical abortion is safe, medical groups said patients were at greater risk of being infected with the coronavirus if they had to go to clinics to obtain mifepristone and have pointed out that mifepristone was the only drug the FDA required from patients. to be obtained in person from a medical provider, but which patients were also allowed to take home without the presence of the provider.
A judge granted the request that summer, allowing patients to see a doctor via telemedicine and receive pills by mail, but, after a Trump administration challenge, the Supreme Court reinstated the restriction early in the year. ‘last year.
Under the Biden administration, however, the FDA permanently lifted the in-person requirement in December and also said pharmacies could begin dispensing mifepristone if they met certain conditions. The FDA’s action means that medical abortion will become more accessible to women who have difficulty getting to an abortion provider or who prefer the privacy of being able to terminate a pregnancy at home.
As a result, while the Guttmacher Institute’s new report is preliminary – reflecting only information from 75% of clinics and including only percentages, not raw data – the proportion of abortions performed with pills is still expected to to augment.
Nearly 80% of all abortions in the CDC’s 2019 data occurred before 10 weeks’ gestation, suggesting that there were many more women who might choose abortion pills over an in-clinic procedure if they could.
At the same time, the growing interest in medical abortion has made it the subject of a very polarized abortion debate.
The State of Abortion in the United States
In 19 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, telemedicine visits for medical abortion are banned, and so far in 2022, according to the Guttmacher Institute report, 16 state legislatures have introduced plans legislation to prohibit or limit medical abortion.
As the Supreme Court now debates whether to strike down abortion rights or even overturn Roe v. Wade of 1973, which legalized abortion, experts and advocates on all sides expect medical abortion to play an even more crucial role in the controversial abortion debate.