American women who are not pregnant have been stocking up on abortion pills since the news about the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision broke, according to a study.
The study published in JAMA Internal Medicine examined data from Aid Access, a Netherlands-based nonprofit organization that provides abortion medications to American women.
The organization works by connecting American patients to doctors who can prescribe the FDA-approved abortion medications — mifepristone and misoprostol — via telehealth. The drug is then shipped at a cost of $110.
Since 2021, the organization has engaged in the advance provision, which refers to nonpregnant patients obtaining abortion pills to have them on hand.
The requests for advance provision spiked after the draft of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision was leaked in 2022 — from about 25 to nearly 118 a day, according to the study.
Women requesting advanced provision are more likely to be over the age of 30, childless, White, and living in the states where the abortion bans were expected, the study found.
However, these populations may not be the most vulnerable to abortion bans. In 2014, 60% of abortion patients were in their 20s, with racial and ethnic minorities accounting for the overwhelming majority.
How do abortion pills work?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved abortion pills in 2000. Twenty years later, this method accounted for 54% of abortions in the United States, according to the data from the Guttmacher Institute.
Mifepristone works by blocking a hormone called progesterone, which is necessary for the continuation of pregnancy. Misoprostol, taken up to 48 hours after mifepristone, induces cramping and bleeding that empties the uterus, resembling miscarriage.
Medical abortions can be performed up to 10 weeks after the first day of the last period.
It is highly effective, especially if performed early: for people who are eight weeks pregnant or less, it works about 98 out of 100 times.
The medications are safe, although rare severe complications may include the following:
- Some of the pregnancy tissue is left in the uterus
- Blood clots in the uterus
- Bleeding too much or too long
- Allergic reaction to one of the medicines
Abortion pills should not be used after 10 weeks of pregnancy or in case of ectopic pregnancy, which occurs outside the uterus and can be fatal.
Since the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling eliminated constitutional protections for abortion, 14 states have enacted near-total abortion bans.
Most states allow performing abortions in case of medical emergencies to protect the life and health of the pregnant person. However, the lack of clarity over what constitutes an emergency makes physicians reluctant to provide abortion care as they risk hefty fines and even prison time.
- JAMA Internal Medicine. Advance Provision of Mifepristone and Misoprostol via Online Telemedicine in the US.
- Planned Parenthood. The Abortion Pill.
- Planned Parenthood. How safe is the abortion pill?
- The Guttmacher Institute. Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients in 2014 and Changes Since 2008.
- The Guttmacher Institute. Medication Abortion Now Accounts for More Than Half of All US Abortions.