States With Abortion Bans Also Saw Declines in Birth Control Post-Dobbs

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Key Takeaways

  • Women in states that enacted abortion bans post-Dobbs are also seeing sharp declines in the use of birth control and emergency contraception

  • The closure of family planning clinics, and confusion among women as to whether or not contraception is illegal in their state, might be driving these trends

  • Overall rates of prescription birth control pills fell by 24% in states with abortion bans or restrictions

WEDNESDAY, June 26, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Post-Dobbs bans and restrictions on abortion are having a spillover effect in reducing the use of birth control and emergency contraception in those states most affected, a new study shows.

Why the troubling trend? The study's author believes the demise of Roe v. Wade in 2022 triggered the closure of many family planning clinics.

“Because 11% of women rely on such clinics for the provision of prescriptions for contraceptives -- many of which are filled at outside pharmacies -- these closures may have reduced access to oral and emergency contraceptives,” explained study lead author Dr. Dima Qato. She's an associate professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Southern California (USC).

Qato's team relied on three main sources to gauge trends in prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception (for example, the "morning after" pill), looking at uptake between March 2021 and October 2023.

The sources were the IQVIA National Prescription Audit PayerTrak, which tracks the monthly volume of prescriptions dispensed at pharmacies; the 2021 American Community Survey, to determine the total population of women and girls of reproductive age; and the Guttmacher Institute, which classified each state in terms of changes in policies related to abortion.

Over the study period, nearly 143 million prescriptions for oral contraceptive pills were written, as well as more than 904,000 prescriptions for emergency contraceptives.

Before the July 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, states had similar rates of dispensing these prescriptions, Qato's group found.

But after the landmark Supreme Court decision, states that then restricted access to abortion saw a 24% average decline in birth control pill prescriptions and a 65% drop in prescriptions for emergency contraception.

“We saw the greatest declines in birth control pills and emergency contraceptives in states that had closed a larger share of their family planning clinics," noted study co-author Rebecca Myerson, an assistant professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

"In Texas, for example, birth control pill prescriptions declined by 28% and emergency contraceptive fills declined by 48%,” Myerson said in a USC news release.

The researchers pointed to another possible reason contraception might have declined in the wake of the Dobbs decision: Confusion and misunderstandings among women living in certain states as to whether contraception might also be banned or restricted.

They cited a January 2023 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation which found that half of women living in states with full bans on abortion believed the "morning after" pill, Plan B, was also now illegal.

The findings were published June 26 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

More information

Find out more about emergency contraception at Planned Parenthood.

SOURCE: University of Southern California, news release, June 26, 2024

What This Means For You

In states most affected by post-Dobbs abortion bans, the use of birth control and emergency contraception by women has also fallen.

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