Online Demand for Abortion Meds Highest in Restrictive States

A Planned Parenthood supporter hosts an abortion rights button on her hat during a March 14, 2019, rally on the steps of the Capitol in Jackson, Miss.  Mississippi senators passed the final version of a bill five days later that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, about six weeks into pregnancy. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

(CN) – A study released Thursday indicates online requests for abortion medications are highest in states with restrictive policies that blocked a woman’s access to clinical services – barriers that include long waiting periods and high costs for in-clinic services.

Most requests came from patients in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas, all states with restrictive abortion policies. In total, 76% of requests during the 10-month study period came from patients living in those states according to researchers at LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Researchers gathered data from the nonprofit telemedicine service Women on Web, which provides abortion medications to people living in countries where safe abortion is unavailable. While Women on Web does not fulfill requests in the United States, requests still come in.

Patients also submitted information about demographic characteristics, medical history and their motivations for seeking medications through an online provider. Some of those reasons include issues finding a clinic and other personal reasons, according to the study authors.

The findings were published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.

In a statement, lead author Abigail Aiken, assistant professor of public affairs at the LBJ School, said, “In both states that have passed many abortion restrictions and states that have passed fewer, people are motivated by a combination of barriers to clinic access and a preference for at-home care.”

Privacy was one of the highest factors for patients. Researchers say the biggest limitation in their study was tracking requests from other online pharmacies and other providers.

Just 24% of requests for online abortion medications came from women living in states that have favorable abortion policies. According to the study, the fewest requests came from New Hampshire and the most were from Mississippi.

Earlier this month, Mississippi told a Fifth Circuit panel it should be allowed to enact a law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A federal judge had struck down the law, finding it “unequivocally” violates women’s constitutional rights by banning abortion weeks before viability.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up a pair of appeals over Louisiana’s abortion rules that access advocates call “sham health statutes” that restrict who can provide abortions.

Last month, a Dutch doctor sued the U.S. government claiming abortion drugs sent to patients living in Idaho were seized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Thursday’s study was supported by the Society of Family Planning, in part by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institutes of Health.


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