Abortion Pill Requests Have Skyrocketed Since Fall Of Roe, Study Finds

Daily requests for medication abortion have more than doubled since the Supreme Court's draft decision leaked, according to new research.

Request for abortion pills ― medication people can take at home to terminate pregnancies ― soared across many states after it became clear the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, a new study found.

The study, which was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed requests for medication abortion across 30 Republican-leaning states using data from Aid Access, an Austria-based telemedicine service that mails abortion pills to people in the U.S.

Researchers found that requests for the pills ― already the most common abortion method in the U.S. ― went from an average of 83 per day to 137 per day after the court’s draft decision on abortion access was leaked to the public in May. In the two months after the court released its formal decision in June, those requests averaged around 214 per day.

“Every state, regardless of abortion policy, showed a higher request rate during the periods after the leak and after the formal decision announcement, with the largest increases observed in states enacting total bans,” the researchers found, with Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma seeing the biggest upticks.

In states that enacted total abortion bans, patients overwhelmingly said they were seeking out medication abortion because of laws stopping them from terminating pregnancies. Sixty-two percent of patients who requested abortion pills after the court’s decision cited “current abortion restrictions” as their reason for needing them, compared to 31% before the leak.

Patients in states that are hostile to abortion but have yet to enact a total ban were more likely to cite “possible future legal restrictions” as their reason for requesting medication abortion, the study also found. Other possible explanations for the overall uptick in requests across the 30 states may be “increased awareness of the service, confusion about state laws, and” ― as abortion providers warned would happen ― “disruption to in-clinic services following increases in out-of-state patients,” the study said.

Requests for medication abortion have skyrocketed even though many states have made it illegal to provide them. But Aid Access has been able to circumvent this. The group uses only doctors in Europe to provide virtual abortion care for patients in states that ban the pills, and those doctors face little legal risk for violating a U.S. state law from outside the country. U.S. patients can receive the pills in one to three weeks for about $100.

While state laws against medication abortion focus on prosecuting those who provide them, pro-abortion rights groups say that because the legal landscape is going through a massive shift right now, it’s still unclear what kind of prosecution patients who access the procedure could face.

Plan C, an online information resource about accessing medication abortion, notes that between 2000 and 2020, there were at least 61 cases of people being prosecuted for self-managing their abortions or for helping someone else do so.

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