Over half of US abortions are now performed with pills, not surgery – The Durango Herald

Containers of drugs used to terminate an early pregnancy stand on a table at a Planned Parenthood clinic October 29, 2021 in Fairview Heights, Illinois. A report released on Thursday, February 24, 2022 states that most abortions in the US are now completed with pills rather than surgery. The trend intensified during the pandemic as telemedicine increased and pills were allowed in the mail. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)

Jeff Robertson

More than half of abortions in the US are now performed with pills instead of surgery, an upward trend that has increased with the rise of telemedicine during the pandemic, a report released Thursday shows.

In 2020, pills accounted for 54% of all abortions in the US, up from about 44% in 2019.

The preliminary numbers come from the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that advocates for abortion rights. The group collects more comprehensive abortion data than the US government by contacting providers.

Abortion pill use has increased since 2000, when the Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone — the main drug used in medical abortions.

The new surge “is not surprising, especially during COVID,” said Dr. Marji Gold, family physician and abortion provider in New York City. She said patients who want an abortion at her clinic have long preferred the pills to the medical procedure.

The pandemic led to a surge in telemedicine and FDA measures that allowed abortion pills to be mailed through the mail so patients could skip in-person visits to receive them. These changes may have contributed to the increase in usage, said Guttmacher researcher Rachel Jones.

The FDA made the change permanent last December, meaning millions of women can get a prescription through an online consultation and receive the pills in the mail. This move led to increased efforts by anti-abortion advocates to get additional restrictions on medical abortions through state legislatures.

The procedure involves mifepristone, which blocks a hormone needed for the pregnancy to continue, followed by misoprostol, a drug that causes spasms that empty the uterus. The combination is approved for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, although some healthcare providers offer it in the second trimester, a practice described as off-label use.

According to the Guttmacher report, 16 state lawmakers have proposed bans or restrictions on medical abortions so far this year.

It notes that 32 states require medical abortions to be prescribed by physicians, although other health care providers, including physician assistants, may prescribe other drugs. And shipping abortion pills to patients is banned in three states — Arizona, Arkansas and Texas, the report said.

According to the World Health Organization, about 73 million abortions are performed each year. About 630,000 abortions were reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019, although information from some states is missing. Guttmacher’s last comprehensive abortion report was in 2017; The data provided on Thursday comes from an update due later this year.

Global figures on drug rates versus surgical abortions are limited. Data from England and Wales shows that medical abortion has overtaken surgical abortion by about 10 years.

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