After a Texas law banning abortions within six weeks of pregnancy was implemented last September, Texas saw an explosion in requests for abortion pills.
The University of Texas published a study Friday in JAMA Open. It found that requests to an international humanitarian organization called Access by Texans for abortion medication by post rose by almost 1,200 percent within the first week Senate Bill8 was put into effect.
The number of daily requests fell over the next three weeks but remained high -- 37.1 daily requests per day compared to 10.8 prior to the law being implemented. The number of requests from other U.S. States also increased over the same period, although in a much smaller amount.
"What we see here is consistent with what we have seen elsewhere where abortion has been severely restricted," stated Dr. Abigail Aiken (associate professor of public affairs, University of Texas, Austin).
It is not clear how many of these requests led to at home abortions.
According to Dr. Daniel Grossman of the University of California San Francisco's Advancing New Standard in Reproductive Health, it is possible that some of these requests were made preemptively by women who weren't yet pregnant, but still wanted the medication. He was not part of the new study.
Two pills, misoprostol and mifepristone, are used to medically abort. They can be taken 48 hours apart. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the pills can be used for up to 10 weeks after a pregnancy.
Guttmacher Institute , an abortion rights research group, reported on Thursday that more than half of all abortions in the United States are now performed with medication and not in-clinic surgery. This spike is partly due to an increase in telemedicine, but medical abortions have been increasing since 2000, when the FDA approved Mifepristone.
The FDA declared December that it would allow patients to continue receiving abortion pills via mail.
State lawmakers are also targeting mail-order abortion drugs.
Another Texas law, ST 4 was also in effect. It prohibits mail-order abortion pills as well as telehealth consultations for abortions. Any person who prescribes medication via telehealth or mail will be sentenced to jail and fined $10,000.
Grossman stated that the pills are safe from a medical standpoint. Grossman said that he was concerned about legal risks for patients taking the pills.
According to the Guttmacher Institute there are currently 36 states that require abortions be performed by licensed physicians. However, it is still unclear how state laws will apply to Aid Access, an organization that is not based in the U.S.
Data from the past has shown that restrictions on abortions do not decrease their number.
"Globally, we have seen that legal conditions do not determine the number of abortions performed. However, they can have a significant impact on the safety of abortion," Dr. Caroline Moreau, an associate Professor of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Abortion medication via mail is safe and effective for pregnant women who have been given the correct information and high-quality medication.
A 2021 study of Aid Access requests found that distance to an abortion clinic and if the person lives below the federal poverty line were two major factors in deciding whether a woman seeks abortion medication via mail. This is often cheaper than in-office care.