SCOTUS Opinion Leak Caused Surge in Search for Abortion Drugs

July 1, 2022 – Announcement that the Supreme Court of the United States has been about to overthrow Roe v. Wade led to a dramatic increase in web searches for abortion drugs, according to a new study.

On May 2, 2022, Politico released a draft majority opinion that revealed the court intended to strike down the guaranteed right to choose to have an abortion.

During the week of the leak, from May 1 to May 8, Google recorded 350,000 internet searches for abortion drugs, the most since the research firm began collecting data in 2004, according to the results published on June 29 in JAMA internal medicine.

“While we cannot be 100% certain of the intent behind this research, women may be trying to find out how safe and effective these pills are or how to obtain them,” said Adam Poliak, PhD. , teacher. of computer science at Bryn Mawr College, in Bryn Mawr, PA, and co-author of the study. “People might be looking to stockpile these pills once abortion becomes illegal or they are looking for alternative methods.”

Poliak and colleagues examined Google search trends mentioning the “abortion pill” or abortion drugs, including mifepristone (Mifeprex) and misoprostol (Cytotec).

Reproductive rights laws vary widely from state to state. This patchwork continues after the Justice decision last Friday to overthrow Roe, with some states outright banning abortion and others severely restricting it. Poliak’s group gave each state a grade from A to F, based on state restrictions.

Internet searches for abortion drugs were more common in states with lower ratings or more restrictions, including Nebraska (F), Iowa (C), and Missouri (D), which all had the highest number of searches that week, the researchers reported.

“The increased interest in abortifacient drugs should alert physicians that many of their patients may pursue this option with or without them,” Poliak and colleagues wrote.

Medical abortions now account for more than half of pregnancy terminations in this country, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A previous study Posted in Open JAMA Network found that nearly 7% of American women aged 18 to 49 have attempted self-directed abortion, including eating herbs and putting foreign objects into the uterus. Poliak and other experts predict that reversing Roe could lead to an increase in potentially dangerous abortion attempts. The court’s decision should put doctors on high alert for the safety of their patients, he said.

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