(Headline USA) More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery, an alarming trend that spiked during the pandemic with the increase in telemedicine, a report released Thursday shows.
The findings quickly drew condemnation from pro-life groups who see a new struggle emerging even as hope grows of a viable challenge to the controversial Roe vs. Wade decision.
“Chemical abortions harm women physically and emotionally and end the life of defenseless children. We must stop this genocide,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, in a press release.
Earlier in the week, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and members of Congress wrote a letter to Food and Drug Administration commissioner Robert Califf expressing concern over the relaxation of safeguards governing the drugs.
“Make no mistake: the relaxation of these requirements will hasten a new regime of mail-order abortion, where women ingest these dangerous medications alone without any meaningful oversight from a doctor,” Lankford wrote.
“Without physician involvement and the associated quick access to care in the case of adverse events, women are likely to face additional complications from these do-it-yourself chemical abortions,” he added.
The study in question came from the far-left pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, which conducts a survey of all known abortion providers every three years.
In 2020, pills accounted for 54% of all U.S. abortions, up from roughly 44% in 2019.
Use of abortion pills has been rising since 2000 when the FDA approved mifepristone — the main drug used in medication abortions.
The new increase “is not surprising, especially during COVID,’’ said New York City abortionist Marji Gold.
Gold 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.
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 after the heartbeat is detected and the fetus fully formed in the second trimester, a practice euphemistically called “off-label use.”
So far this year, 16 state legislatures have proposed bans or restrictions on medication abortion, according to the Guttmacher report.
It notes that in 32 states, medication abortions must be prescribed by physicians even though other health care providers including physician assistants can prescribe other medicines. And mailing abortion pills to patients is banned in three states—Arizona, Arkansas and Texas, the report says.
According to the World Health Organization, about 73 million abortions are performed each year. About 630,000 abortions were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019 although information from some states is missing.
Guttmacher’s last comprehensive abortion report dates to 2017; the data provided Thursday came from an update due out later this year.
Global numbers on rates of medication versus surgical abortions are limited. Data from England and Wales show that medication abortions have outpaced surgical abortions for about 10 years.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press