According to new data, 63% of all abortions nationwide were medication abortions - TAI News
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Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, AL., on March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

According to new data released by the pro-abortion rights research organization Guttmacher Institute, medication abortions made up 63% of all abortions in the United States in 2023, up 10% over 2020.

In January 2023, Guttmacher’s Monthly Abortion Provision Study began estimating the number of abortions in each state by collecting data from clinics and doctors’ offices as well as information from those who provide abortion services via telehealth. The study then compared estimates for 2023 with its 2020 Abortion Provider Census.

The study does not include an accounting of self-managed medication abortions that happen outside of the formal health care system or in cases where abortion medication is sent to patients through the mail in states where it is banned or severely restricted. 

The new data reported an estimated 1,026,690 abortions were obtained by patients in the United States in 2023, the highest number in over a decade, according to analysis by Guttmacher staffers Isaac Maddow-Zimet and Candace Gibson.

“While access has decreased dramatically in states with bans, almost all other states have experienced substantial increases in the number of abortions provided,” the authors wrote. “As a result, the United States continues to face a fractured abortion landscape, with access varying widely based on where people live and what resources they have.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, 21 states have enacted severe restrictions or complete bans on abortion care.

The number of abortions performed in every state without a ban or restriction has increased 10% since 2020; states with restrictions but without a total ban on abortion care saw a 25% increase in 2023; and states bordering banned states saw an increase of 37% between 2020 and 2023, the report said.

Rachel Jones, a principal researcher at Guttmacher, said in a statement that although greater access to medication abortion is good news for patients who want or need it, it is far from the long-term answer.

“As abortion restrictions proliferate post-Dobbs, medication abortion may be the most viable option—or the only option—for some people, even if they would have preferred in-person procedural care. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that an increase in medication abortion does not necessarily indicate that all people using this method prefer it,” Jones said.

On March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in U.S. Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. The ruling could have serious implications for access to the abortion medication mifepristone, even in states where it is legal.

Mifepristone, also known by the brand name Mifeprex, was approved by the FDA in 2000. It is one of two drugs used in a two-step nonsurgical abortion regimen, along with misoprostol. The regime is also used to manage miscarriages. In 2021, the FDA removed the requirement that patients see a doctor in person before obtaining the medicine but added that pharmacies must be certified by the agency to dispense the medication.

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a group of physicians and Christian medical groups that oppose abortion, has argued that the FDA should never have approved the drug. In September 2023, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the group that the drug was improperly approved. The FDA appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The FDA currently approves mifepristone for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, but the Supreme Court could reduce that number to seven weeks, the initial use approved by the FDA, and require an in-person visit with a physician for a patient to obtain the pills.

“As our latest data emphasize, more than three out of five abortion patients in the United States use medication abortion,” Amy Friedrich-Karnik, director of federal policy at Guttmacher, said in a statement. “Reinstating outdated and medically unnecessary restrictions on the provision of mifepristone would negatively impact people’s lives and decrease abortion access across the country.”

On March 1, pharmacy giants CVS and Walgreens announced they would begin dispensing mifepristone in states where abortion is legal. Patients can obtain the drug at a pharmacy with a prescription from their doctor, from a clinic such as those run by Planned Parenthood, or through the mail after seeing a provider via telemedicine. 

Mifepristone is only available by prescription from a licensed clinician. 

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