May 14, 2024 - Health

Abortion provider protections prove crucial in a post-Roe world

Illustration of window curtain with the female symbol as the curtain pull.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Nearly one in five women seeking an abortion at the end of 2023 turned to telehealth for treatment, allowing them to circumvent state laws banning the procedure, according to a national report released Tuesday.

The big picture: Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the volume of abortions has increased in part due to new state laws providing legal protections to clinicians who offer telehealth abortion care to patients in places with restrictions, according to the Society of Family Planning's #WeCount report.

  • Nearly half of all telehealth abortions provided between October to December were done under shield law protections, per #WeCount.
  • Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Washington and Vermont have all enacted shield laws to protect abortion providers.

By the numbers: The number of women who sought abortion care via telehealth from states with shield laws grew to an average of 8,000 per month for the first time from October to December 2023, according to the report.

  • Excluding those, the monthly average number of abortions in 2023 was 86,000 — higher than the monthly average of 82,000 abortions in 2022, the #WeCount report found.

Zoom out: The states with the largest increases in abortion volume over the 18 months following the Dobbs ruling included Illinois, Florida and California.

  • Out-of-state travel for abortions surged in states like Florida and Illinois in response to strict bans in neighboring states.
  • But Florida's new abortion law — which went into effect this month as one of the strictest limits in the nation — will drastically change its role as a post-Roe refuge for people seeking care in the U.S. South.
  • There have also been large increases in states that are geographically distant from states with abortion bans, including California, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts — likely due to an influx of out-of-state travelers seeking access to care as well as increased abortions among residents, per the report.

Worth noting: The states with the greatest cumulative declines in abortion volume over 18 months include Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama — all of which adopted some of the strictest abortion laws in the country.

What they're saying: "Even as the total national number of abortions nationally has increased, we can't lose sight of the fact that access to in-person abortion care has virtually disappeared in states where abortion is banned," Dr. Alison Norris, #WeCount co-chair, said in a statement.

  • "The loss of clinic based care—which makes up more than 80% of abortion care—is a devastating loss to access for people across wide swaths of the country," she added.

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