The Columbus Dispatch

Over half of US abortions now done with pills

- Lindsey Tanner

More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery, an upward trend that spiked during the pandemic with the increase in telemedici­ne, a report released Thursday shows.

In 2020, pills accounted for 54% of all U.S. abortions, up from roughly 44% in 2019.

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

Use of abortion pills has been rising since 2000 when the Food and Drug Administra­tion approved mifepristo­ne – the main drug used in medication abortions. The new increase “is not surprising, especially during COVID,” said Dr. Marji Gold, a family medicine physician and abortion provider in New York City. She said patients seeking abortions at her clinic have long chosen the pills over the medical procedure.

The pandemic prompted a rise in telemedici­ne and FDA action that allowed abortion pills to be mailed so patients could skip in-person visits to get them. Those changes could have contribute­d to the increase in use, said Guttmacher researcher Rachel Jones.

The FDA made the change permanent last December, meaning millions of women can get a prescripti­on via an online consultati­on and receive the pills through the mail. That led to stepped-up efforts by abortion opponents to seek additional restrictio­ns on medication abortions.

The procedure includes mifepristo­ne, which blocks a hormone needed for pregnancy to continue, followed one or two days later by misoprosto­l, a drug that causes cramping that empties the womb. The combinatio­n is approved for use within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, although some health care providers offer it in the second trimester, a practice called off-label use.

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