More than six in 10 US abortions in 2023 were done by medication — a significant jump since 2020

FILE - A patient prepares to take the first of two combination pills, mifepristone, for a medication abortion during a visit to a clinic in Kansas City, Kan., on, Oct. 12, 2022. More than six in 10 of the abortions in the United States last year were done through medication, up from 53% in 2020, according to research released Tuesday, March 19, 2024. The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, said about 642,700 medication abortions took place in the first full calendar year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Medication abortion accounted for 63% of abortions in the formal health care system. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

FILE – A patient prepares to take the first of two combination pills, mifepristone, for a medication abortion during a visit to a clinic in Kansas City, Kan., on, Oct. 12, 2022. More than six in 10 of the abortions in the United States last year were done through medication, up from 53% in 2020, according to research released Tuesday, March 19, 2024. The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, said about 642,700 medication abortions took place in the first full calendar year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Medication abortion accounted for 63% of abortions in the formal health care system. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

More than six in 10 of the abortions in the United States last year were done through medication, up from 53% in 2020, new research shows.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, said about 642,700 medication abortions took place in the first full calendar year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Medication abortion accounted for 63% of abortions in the formal health care system.

The data was released Tuesday, a week before the high court will hear arguments in a case that could impact how women get access to mifepristone, which is usually used with another pill in medication abortions.

Guttmacher researcher Rachel Jones said the increase wasn’t a surprise.

“For example, it is now possible in some states, at least for health care providers, to mail mifepristone to people in their homes,” Jones said, “so that saves patients travel costs and taking time off work.”

Guttmacher’s data, which is collected by contacting abortion providers, doesn’t count self-managed medication abortions that take place outside the health care system or abortion medication mailed to people in states with abortion bans.

Dr. Grace Ferguson, an OB-GYN and abortion provider in Pittsburgh who isn’t involved with the research, said the COVID-19 pandemic and the overturning of Roe v. Wade “really opened the doors” for medication abortions done through telehealth.

Ferguson said “telehealth was a really good way of accommodating that increased volume” in states where abortion remained legal and saw an increase in people who traveled from more restrictive states.

Guttmacher data shows that medication abortions have risen steadily since mifepristone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000. The drug, which blocks the hormone progesterone, also primes the uterus to respond to the contraction-causing effect of another drug, misoprostol. The two-drug regimen is used to end a pregnancy through 10 weeks gestation.

The case in front of the Supreme Court could cut off access to mifepristone by mail and impose other restrictions, even in states where abortion remains legal.

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