Mar 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Self-managed abortions surged after overturn of Roe v. Wade, study shows

Mifepristone packet

Packet of mifepristone and misoprostol. Photo: Soumyabrata Roy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The number of women turning to medication abortion outside of the formal health care system surged in the wake of the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, according to a new study.

Why it matters: The findings offer a fuller picture of the use of abortion pills following the court's decision to end federal abortion protections.

  • The study also comes just as the Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments Tuesday in a case that could have far-reaching consequences for the availability of the abortion pill mifepristone.

State of play: Almost 28,000 more abortion pills were provided for self-managed abortions in the six months after the Dobbs ruling compared with pre-Dobbs levels, according to the study published Monday in JAMA.

  • The numbers nearly offset decreases in abortions through the formal health care system during that time, which previous research pegs at 32,000.

Self-managed abortions are those done without the help of a doctor or nurse, according to Planned Parenthood.

  • In these cases, patients may source abortion pills themselves, via volunteer networks or online websites. This allows patients in states with abortion bans to access to the pills.

The big picture: Medication abortion has steadily grown in popularity in recent years, accounting for 63% of U.S. abortions in 2023, the highest figure on record.

  • Medication abortions facilitated via telehealth appointments rose during the pandemic and following the Dobbs decision.
  • Yet the impending legal battle before the Supreme Court could prevent patients from using telemedicine appointments to acquire abortion pills and shorten the timeframe for mifepristone use.

Go deeper: How the Supreme Court could determine abortion pill access

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