Abortions via telehealth medication have been on the rise, report finds

Post-Roe restrictions have also led to more patients traveling out of state.

February 28, 2024, 9:00 PM

In the first nationwide count of telehealth abortions, researchers estimated that the number of such abortions had steadily increased over an 18-month period and that in September, 16% of abortions in the U.S -- approximately 14,000 -- were done via pills dispensed by mail after consultations with virtual clinicians online.

The report, released on Wednesday conducted by the Society of Family Planning, examined the seismic shift in abortion access from April 2022 to September 2023, a period of time that mostly includes months since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. (The data in the report is incomplete in some places and therefore has been estimated.)

The findings about telehealth abortions echoes earlier research into the prevalence of medication abortions, which the Guttmacher Institute, a group that focuses on sexual and reproductive health, found in 2022 accounted for about half of all abortions.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 18, 2023, file photo, Mifepristone is shown.
In this Aug. 18, 2023, file photo, Mifepristone is shown.
NurPhoto via Getty Images, FILE

However, one of the key drugs used in medication abortion has been in the crosshairs of a legal battle over its use and regulation, with the matter soon to be considered before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A federal appeals court ruled in August that mifepristone should be more tightly regulated than it is now, with limits on the drug at seven weeks of gestation and requirements that patients obtain the pill in person instead of through the mail.

Despite dramatic declines in access to abortion across 14 states that have banned nearly all abortion services, the monthly volume of patients seeking abortions remains high, the new report estimated.

The study found that if the Supreme Court hadn't struck down Roe's guarantees to nationwide abortion access, 120,930 abortions would have occurred in the 14 states that have banned the procedure.

PHOTO: Businesswoman talking with doctor online from office.
STOCK IMAGE/Getty Images

The post-Roe restrictions have led to an increase of patients traveling out of state, with the largest influx of patients in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, according to the new report. Other patients have turned to virtual clinics or resorted to informal community networks.

Lead researchers in the report noted that thousands of patients who received medication abortions via telehealth were from states that have banned abortions.

"What we know is that telehealth abortions within the health care system are extremely safe and effective. The safety and effectiveness rates are the same as in-clinic care and in-person care," Dr. Montida Fleming, with the provider Hey Jane, told reporters.

ABC News' Emma Egan Anne Flaherty and Dr. Erica Jalal contributed to this report.

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