- Patients in states that banned abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year eliminating the constitutional right to the procedure are increasingly turning to telemedicine to end their pregnancies, in defiance of their state governments.
- Orders for abortion pills to telemedicine nonprofit Aid Access have increased in states that have decided to restrict abortion access since June, according to a research letter published Tuesday in JAMA. States with total or near-total bans on abortion are seeing the largest surges in demand.
- The jump in demand for virtually delivered abortions comes as the average travel time to an abortion facility increased significantly after patients lost the right to an abortion nationwide, according to another study also published in JAMA on Tuesday.
In a highly controversial decision, the Supreme Court struck down the landmark court decision Roe v. Wade over the summer, ending the constitutional right to abortion and creating patchwork access to the procedure across the U.S. as conservative states implemented a variety of bans. The decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is having devastating impacts on patient care and access, along with sowing legal chaos and confusion for physicians uncertain about their ability to treat patients.
Yet people are finding workarounds.
According to the data provided by Aid Access, the nonprofit received 213.7 average daily orders for abortion medication from 30 U.S. states from June 24 — the date of the Supreme Court’s decision — through the end of August. That’s compared to a daily average of 82.6 orders from September 2021 through May of this year.
The research included 12 states that banned abortion entirely, five that implemented bans after six weeks of gestation, 10 that have yet to enact bans but where they are likely, and three with no current or planned legal changes.
Demand increased the most in the 12 states that banned the procedure, Aid Access said. For example, the nonprofit’s orders from Louisiana jumped to 15 per day following the Supreme Court’s ruling, compared to the previous average of 5.6.
Medication abortion, which typically consists of a two-pill regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol, is an important mechanism for continuing access to safe abortions in states with limits on the procedure, as they can be prescribed in legal locations and sent back to a patient’s home (or other address), advocates say.
The pills, which have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for more than two decades, currently make up more than half of all abortions.
The rising demand for pills comes as the average travel time to an abortion facility skyrocketed post-Dobbs. According to the second study, it took people an average of 100 minutes to travel to abortion facilities in September, compared to an average of 30 minutes before the Dobbs decision.
Post-Dobbs, an estimated 33% of women of reproductive age lived more than an hour away from an abortion facility, compared to 15% before the decision.
Black, Hispanic and American Indian women, along with uninsured women and those with lower incomes, were more likely to have longer travel times or low access to abortion facilities, according to the study. That disparity is worrying as medical experts anticipate maternal deaths, which already disproportionately affect such underserved populations, to increase as a result of abortion bans.