Nov 1, 2022 - Health

Mail-order abortion pill requests surged after Roe reversal, study finds

Photo of a hand raising an abortion rights sign against the backdrop of the U.S. Capitol

An abortion rights demonstrator holds a sign near the U.S. Capitol during the annual Women's March in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 8, 2022. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Requests for self-managed abortions via pills increased in 30 states following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, with the largest surges seen in states with total or near-total bans on abortion, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Driving the news: In states with total abortion bans, 62.4% of respondents cited "current abortion restrictions" as a reason for their request after the Supreme Cort decision, compared to 31.4% before.

Why it matters: Abortion medication has been in high demand as a self-administered option amid GOP-led states' bid to restrict abortion access. The FDA-approved drug is less costly than clinical procedures and doesn't require travel, relieving some of the financial barriers that often weigh on people.

Details: The study examined requests in the 30 states where Aid Access — a telemedicine service that provides self-managed abortions through pills mailed to people in the U.S. — is accessible outside the formal health care system.

  • Between September and May before the Dobbs decision was leaked, Aid Access received an average of roughly 83 requests per day.
  • During the period of time from May to June 24 between the leak and the formal decision, that number increased to about 137.
  • From June 24 through August after the decision was formally announced, it rose to nearly 214.
  • Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma had the largest increases in requests per week per 100,000 women.

What they're saying: "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 study said.

  • When Texas enacted its abortion ban last fall, "I said the need for abortion won’t go away just because it’s restricted, and that self-management stepped in as a potential option for people who could not go to a clinic," Abigail R.A. Aiken, assistant professor at the University of Texas Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and lead author of the study, said in a statement.
  • "[W]hat this new data also shows is that when respondents have other options available to them, they still value the ability to manage abortion on their own terms."

Worth noting: Almost half of U.S. states had laws in place making it illegal to access pills via mail even before the fall of Roe.

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