Over 60% of US abortions in 2023 done using medication: report

New data by the Guttmacher Institute, an organization advocating for abortion rights, reveal that over 60% of abortions in the United States last year were performed through medication, marking a notable increase from 53% in 2020.

According to the data released on Tuesday, approximately 642,700 medication abortions occurred in the first full calendar year following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Speaking with the Associated Press, 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, compiled through communication with abortion providers, does not include self-managed medication abortions occurring outside the healthcare system or abortion medication sent to individuals in states with abortion restrictions.

The new data follows a separate but recent report which found that the number of monthly abortions in the U.S. has been about the same ever since the Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Published in February, the #WeCount report conducted by the Society of Family Planning, a nonprofit organization that promotes abortion and other healthcare education, between 81,150 and 88,620 abortions took place each month between July and September last year. 

The agency said these numbers are slightly lower than the monthly average of about 86,800 from April through June 2022, before Roe and just after it was overturned.

The impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion

Dr. Grace Ferguson, an OB-GYN and abortion provider in Pittsburgh unrelated to Guttmacher's research, emphasized to the Associated Press that both the COVID-19 pandemic and the overturning of Roe v. Wade have notably enhanced the use of telehealth for medication abortions.

Ferguson noted, "Telehealth was highly effective in meeting the heightened demand," particularly in states where abortion remained legal and saw an influx of individuals from more restrictive areas.

Guttmacher's data reveals a consistent rise in medication abortions since the FDA's approval of mifepristone in 2000. This drug, which blocks progesterone, primes the uterus for the contraction-inducing effects of misoprostol. The combination is typically used for pregnancies up to 10 weeks gestation.

In an upcoming Supreme Court session, a case will be heard that could influence women's access to mifepristone, often utilized alongside another pill in medication abortions.

The case before the Supreme Court could potentially limit access to mifepristone by mail and introduce additional constraints, even in states where abortion is legally permissible.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.