US Abortion Rates Rise Despite State Bans, Driven by Telehealth

The article reports on the surprising increase in abortions in the United States despite state bans, driven by the rise of telehealth services and 'shield laws' in states like California, Florida, and Illinois, which allow providers to prescribe and mail abortion pills to patients in states with restrictive laws. The WeCount project's data shows that telehealth abortions have become a common way to access abortion care, with nearly 1 in 5 abortions nationwide being medication abortions provided via telehealth." This description focuses on the primary topic of the article (the increase in abortions despite state bans), the main entities involved (telehealth services, shield laws, and the WeCount project), the context of the story (the post-Roe era in the United States), and the significant actions and implications (the rise of telehealth abortions and the ongoing struggle for reproductive rights). The description also provides objective and relevant details that will help an AI generate an accurate visual representation of the article's content.

Aqsa Younas Rana
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US Abortion Rates Rise Despite State Bans, Driven by Telehealth

US Abortion Rates Rise Despite State Bans, Driven by Telehealth

Despite a wave of state abortion bans following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the number of abortions performed in the United States has actually increase, research. According to data from the Society of Family Planning's WeCount project, there were approximately 86,000 abortions per month in 2023, up from 82,000 per month in 2022.

Why this matters: The rise in abortions despite state bans highlights the resilience of reproductive rights advocates and the importance of telehealth services in maintaining access to abortion care. This trend also underscores the ongoing struggle for reproductive rights in the US, with significant implications for women's health and autonomy.

This surprising trend is being driven by the rise of telehealth services and the enactment of "shield laws" in states like California, Florida, and Illinois. These laws protect providers who offer abortion care nationwide, allowing them to prescribe and mail abortion pills to patients even in states with restrictive abortion laws. Between July and December 2023, over 40,000 people in states with abortion bans and telehealth restrictions were able to obtain medication abortions through providers in states with shield laws.

Telehealth has rapidly become an increasingly common way to access abortion care in the post-Roe era. The WeCount report found that by December 2023, nearly 1 in 5 abortions nationwide (about 17,000 each month) were medication abortions provided via telehealth, where pills were mailed to patients after a remote consultation with a clinician. This marks a significant increase from just 4% of abortions being performed via telehealth in the project's first report following the Dobbs decision.

Dr. Ushma Upadhyay, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco and co-chair of the WeCount project, expressed surprise at the findings. "We are seeing a slow and small steady increase in the number of abortions per month, and this was completely surprising to us," she said. However, Upadhyay cautioned that the rise in telehealth abortions should not overshadow the impact of state abortion bans. "The concern we have is that that might be overlooked by these increases," she noted.

Medication abortion, which typically involves taking a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, has been shown to be a safe and effective method for ending pregnancies in the first trimester. A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that over 90% of patients who received abortion pills by mail were satisfied with the experience. The success rate was about 98%, with less than 5% experiencing any adverse events.

Despite the increasing prevalence of telehealth abortions, access to in-person abortion care has been severely curtailed in many state, driven. Fourteen states had total abortion bans in place during the WeCount research period, resulting in approximately 145,000 fewer in-person abortions in those states compared to the previous year. Dr. Alison Norris, co-chair of the WeCount project, emphasized that while telehealth has helped fill some of the gaps, "access to in-person abortion care has virtually disappeared in states where abortion is banned."

The WeCount report, which captures data from abortion providers across the country, is believed to still be an undercount of the total number of abortions occurring in the United States, as it does not include self-managed abortions happening outside the formal healthcare system. Researchers also noted that building broader awareness and trust in telehealth abortion story remains an ongoing challenge.

As the legal and political landscape around abortion access continues to shift, the long-term viability of telehealth abortion services remains uncertain. Nine states where abortion is still legal have restricted telehealth abortions in some way, such as requiring in-person ultrasounds or counseling before the procedure. A pending federal court case challenging the FDA's approval of mifepristone also threatens to curtail access to medication abortion nationwide. "I don't think they're going away, and I think they will continue offering abortion care," said Upadhyay of telehealth providers. "It'll rock the system tremendously."

Key Takeaways

  • US abortions increased to 86,000/month in 2023, up from 82,000/month in 2022.
  • Telehealth services and "shield laws" drive the increase, bypassing state bans.
  • 17,000 abortions/month are now performed via telehealth, up from 4% in 2022.
  • Medication abortion via telehealth is safe and effective, with 98% success rate.
  • Access to in-person abortion care has severely decreased in many states.