About 8,000 Women Per Month Are Getting Abortion Pills Despite Their States' Bans

About 8,000 Women Per Month Are Getting Abortion Pills Despite Their States' Bans
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Key Takeaways

  • Following the fall of Roe v. Wade, many states made accessing medication abortion illegal

  • A new survey finds that more than 8,000 women living in those states have used telemedicine services to get the pills from other states

  • So-called state 'shield laws' are protecting telemedicine suppliers for now, but they may face legal challenges

TUESDAY, May 14, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- While some states have moved to severely curb women's access to abortion, including abortion pills, over 8,000 women living in those states are getting the pills by mail each month from states without such restrictions.

That's according to new data from a #WeCount survey conducted for the Society of Family Planning, which supports abortion rights.

“People ... are using the various mechanisms to get pills that are out there,” Drexel University law professor David Cohen told the Associated Press. This “is not surprising based on what we know throughout human history and across the world: People will find a way to terminate pregnancies they don’t want.”

Medication abortion usually involves a two-drug combination: mifepristone and misoprostol. Use of this form of abortion rose sharply after Roe v. Wade was overturned in July of 2022.

In fact, the overall abortion rate rose slightly in 2023 compared to 2022, according to the new survey, totaling about 90,000 terminations each month last year.

However, access to abortion has gotten tougher for American women, with 14 states now prohibiting nearly all such procedures, and three more banning after just six weeks of pregnancy.

State responses to the 2022 Supreme Court decision fell along party lines: Republican-controlled states clamped down on access to surgical or medication abortion, while Democrat-run states put new initiatives into place aimed at getting abortion pills to women and shielding pill suppliers from legal action.

Five states -- Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Washington -- currently have such "shield" laws in place, which protect abortion pill suppliers who might get mifepristone/misoprostol to women in other states via telemedicine.

“If a Colorado provider provides telehealth care to a patient who’s in Texas, Colorado will not participate in any Texas criminal action or civil lawsuit,” Cohen explained. “Colorado says: ‘The care that was provided in our state was legal. It follows our laws because the provider was in our state.’”

Anti-abortion activists are trying to change all that, however. James Bopp Jr. is general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee. He told the AP he expects that "we’ll get a legal challenge" to shield laws.

But Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, who directs Aid Access, an abortion pill supplier, hopes shield laws are strengthened not weakened.

“They’re extremely important because they make doctors and providers ... feel safe and protected,” Gomperts told AP. “I hope what we will see in the end is that all the states that are not banning abortion will adopt shield laws.”

More information

Find out more about medication abortion at the Guttmacher Institute.

SOURCES: #WeCount report; Associated Press

What This Means For You

Women in many states are now barred from obtaining pills that trigger a medication abortion, but a new survey finds thousands each month are getting them anyway.

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