Study Finds Abortions Outside Healthcare System Spiked After Roe v. Wade Fell

Soumyabrata Roy/Getty Images
Soumyabrata Roy/Getty Images

The number of people who terminated their pregnancies without the involvement of the formal U.S. health care system skyrocketed immediately after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, according to a new study published by JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study refers to these as “self-managed abortions,” which can include methods ranging from low-risk use of abortion medication to the dangerous use of self-harm in order to terminate a pregnancy. Pills were the most common and safest way to carry out abortions without involving medical offices, the study found.

In the six months after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022, there were an estimated 28,000 more medication-induced abortions outside the healthcare system than there would have been based on pre-Dobbs data, the report said. These were largely thanks to community networks and telemedicine organizations, which provided 51.4 and 37.2 percent of medication abortions in the study.

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“While self-managed medication abortion has long been considered a marginal practice in US, our findings suggest that this approach has become mainstream,” the study reads.

But the future of those self-managed abortions using medication is at risk.

The fate of mifepristone, an abortion pill, now sits before the Supreme Court. The JAMA report was released one day before the Court is set to hear arguments in a case that could set major restrictions on how the pill is distributed, potentially cutting off its access to millions.

A ruling against the pill could ban distribution by mail and telemedicine prescriptions, which provided for more than a third of the medication abortions in the study.

The study also mentioned more than 26,000 self-managed abortions that came from non-medicated methods, ranging from the use of herbs to the dangerous decision to self-harm. That statistic reflects a terrifying reality abortion advocates have long warned: that state abortion bans don’t create fewer abortions, but make abortions less safe as some pregnant people turn to pathways outside the healthcare system.

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