Two new studies on abortion after Roe v. Wade was overturned show that the overall number of abortions in the country seem to have fallen slightly, but overseas abortion pill providers may be somewhat filling that gap.
A report from #WeCount released on October 28 found that in-clinic abortions declined about 6% from April to August. Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24. Abortions in states that banned abortion decreased by 95%, while states that restricted abortion (but did not outlaw it) saw a decrease of more than 30%, the report found. In states where abortion remained legal, the report indicated an 11% increase in the number of abortions provided by a clinician. This may indicate that people in states where abortion is restricted traveled to other states to obtain a legal abortion.
But that decrease doesn’t account for abortion pills obtained through mail.
While the #WeCount report shows an overall decrease in abortion provided by clinicians, research published in JAMA found an increase in online orders for abortion pills through Aid Access, an organization that sends abortion pills via mail from outside the U.S. According to the New York Times, the JAMA findings showed a nearly 120% increase in orders for abortion pills through Aid Access in July and August, following the Roe decision.
In places where abortion is illegal or largely inaccessible, abortion pills by mail may be a workaround for people who need to terminate a pregnancy. These pills, which typically consist of a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, can be used safely and effectively to self-manage an abortion at home in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. In places where abortion is illegal, abortion pills can’t be prescribed by a provider. But online clinics like Aid Access — which is based in Europe and therefore not necessarily subject to U.S. laws — can mail pills in a way that may fall into a legal gray area.
As the Times reported, the dramatic increase in online orders for abortion pills may not account for actual abortions. Some people may order pills and not take them, or order them to have them on hand for the future. And, the research published in JAMA only looks at pills ordered from Aid Access, excluding pills ordered from other sources.
What’s clear, however, is that abortion bans and restrictions have prevented some people who needed abortion from accessing it.
In the aftermath of the Roe decision, many pointed out that abortion restrictions would continue to impact low income and women of color — particularly Black women — most, as they have historically. Traveling out of state to get an abortion can be costly. An in-clinic abortion in the first trimester can cost up to $750, according to Planned Parenthood, though it can cost more or less. Beyond the cost of the actual abortion, traveling out of state can mean hotel costs, paying for gas or flights, missed work, and, for people who already have children, childcare.