A new study finds online requests for abortion pills spiked following the Supreme Court's decision to reverse Roe vs. Wade. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Online requests for mail-order abortion pills surged after the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe vs. Wade, according to a new study that found more women turned to the Internet as some states banned or restricted the procedure.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA, found that limiting abortions within the formal health care system did not eliminate them.
The study analyzed requests for abortion-inducing drugs over the past year, and found requests for self-managed abortions spiked after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade on June 24.
"The increases indicate that while abortion bans create access barriers that lead to more people self-managing their abortions, self-managed abortion is also a method of choice for some," said Abigail Aiken, lead author and assistant professor at the University of Texas Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs.
The study specifically analyzed inquiries to Aid Access from September 2021 to August 2022. The nonprofit organization, based in Austria, provides mail-order abortion pills in the United States following a telemedicine consultation with a physician.
Aid Access saw requests for abortion pills from people who cited "current abortion restrictions" double from 31% before the Supreme Court decision to 62% after.
Between September 2021 and May 2022, when abortion was legal, the organization said it received 83 requests a day.
That number jumped to 137 daily requests after the Supreme Court's draft opinion was leaked between May and June 23. Once Roe vs. Wade was reversed on June 24, average daily requests soared to nearly 214.
Medicated abortion is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires two pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
The drugs no longer require an in person visit at a clinic or hospital after the Biden administration allowed doctors to prescribe the pills virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In all, 19 states currently ban providers from prescribing abortion pills. Aid Access allows patients to bypass restrictions by connecting them to European doctors who prescribe the pills before they are mailed from India.
While the study found requests for abortion pills increased in every state, the largest increases were from five states that either banned or restricted abortions after the Supreme Court ruling. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
"It's an incredibly unique and invaluable dataset," Liza Fuentes, a senior research scientist at Guttmacher Institute, said in a statement about how legal changes to abortion access are impacting the way people seek reproductive care.
"In the places where people have the least chance -- and in some cases, zero chance -- of being able to get an abortion in their community, it makes sense that people would try to seek that care online."