Research reveals that despite bans or restrictions in their states, approximately 8,000 women per month obtained abortion pills.

A new report reveals that women in states with abortion bans and restrictions are obtaining abortion pills through mail services from states that have laws safeguarding prescribers. Thousands of women are benefiting from this practice, which allows them to access the medication they need in a safe and discreet manner.

According to the recently published #WeCount survey, it has been revealed that approximately 8,000 women per month in states with strict abortion restrictions or telehealth limitations have been receiving abortion pills by mail. This marks the first time that a specific figure has been assigned to the frequency of this alternative method within the medical system. The survey was conducted by the Society of Family Planning, an organization that advocates for abortion rights.

The study revealed that each month, an extra 8,000 women in states that did not have any bans or significant limitations on telehealth abortion were able to obtain abortion pills through virtual appointments.

In total, medical providers offered approximately 90,000 surgical or medication abortions on a monthly basis in 2023, which is higher than the previous year. Additionally, a recent study discovered that nearly two-thirds of all abortions were performed using pills.

By December 2023, the group discovered that providers in states with abortion protections were prescribing pills to approximately 6,000 women per month in states where abortion was banned at all stages of pregnancy or once cardiac activity can be detected. This typically occurs around six weeks, often before women even realize they are pregnant. Additionally, around 2,000 women per month were receiving prescriptions for abortion pills through telemedicine in states where local laws restrict such prescriptions.

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“People are resorting to different methods to obtain pills that are available,” commented David Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University. He further added, “This is not unexpected, considering the patterns observed in human history and across the globe. Individuals will always find a means to end unwanted pregnancies.”

Medication abortions commonly consist of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The utilization of these pills is one of the factors contributing to the continued increase in the overall number of abortions, even after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in April, it was found that a majority of Americans are in favor of medication abortion being legal in their state. The survey revealed that over half of U.S. adults believe that medication abortion should be legal, while a fifth of them expressed that it should be illegal. Additionally, approximately a quarter of respondents stated that they were unsure about their opinion on the matter. It is important to note that this poll did not consider laws protecting prescribers.

After the overturning of Roe, the majority of Republican-controlled states implemented abortion bans. Currently, there are fourteen states that prohibit abortion with only a few exceptions, and three states that restrict it after approximately six weeks of pregnancy.

Democratic-controlled states have taken a different approach by implementing laws to safeguard individuals within their states from investigations related to abortion crimes conducted by authorities in other states. By the end of 2020, five states, namely Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, and Washington, had already established these protective measures, specifically targeting abortion pill prescriptions facilitated through telemedicine.

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According to Cohen, if a healthcare provider from Colorado offers telehealth services to a patient in Texas, the state of Colorado will not be involved in any legal actions or lawsuits that may arise in Texas. Colorado asserts that the care provided within its borders was legal and compliant with its own laws, as the healthcare provider was operating within Colorado.

According to Wendy Stark, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, the shield law in the state is considered a significant victory for ensuring abortion access.

According to James Bopp Jr., general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, the law that governs the location of the abortion should be the one that applies in cases of pill-by-telemedicine abortions, rather than the law where the prescriber is located. He argues that this is consistent with how other laws are applied.

Unfortunately, this issue has yet to be challenged in court, unlike many other aspects of abortion policy.

According to Bopp, if a shield law is to be contested in court, it would require a prosecutor from a state with a ban to charge an out-of-state prescriber with the act of providing an illegal abortion.

According to Bopp, there is a high likelihood of a legal challenge arising in the future.

According to researchers, it remains unclear exactly how many people were obtaining abortion pills from sources outside the formal medical system before the implementation of the shield laws.

According to Alison Norris, an epidemiologist at Ohio State University and the lead researcher on the #WeCount report, the group has decided not to disclose the exact number of pills shipped to each state with a ban. This decision was made in order to ensure the utmost protection for both the individuals receiving the care and the providers offering it.

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According to Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, director of Aid Access, a supplier of abortion pills collaborating with U.S. providers, the implementation of additional shield laws is crucial for strengthening the resilience of the healthcare system.

Gomperts, whose organization’s data was featured in the #WeCount report, emphasized the significance of shield laws in ensuring the safety and protection of doctors and healthcare providers. According to her, these laws play a crucial role in making healthcare professionals feel secure in their practice. She expressed her hope that all states that have not yet banned abortion will eventually adopt shield laws.

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