Boxes of mifepristone medication used for medical abortion are prepared for patients at Planned Parenthood Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 14, 2022.
Evelyn Hockstein Reiter
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, abortion pills are the most common method of terminating a pregnancy in the United States.
The CDC, in a report released Wednesday, found that about 51% of abortions in 2020 were done with the pill at or before the ninth week of pregnancy. From 2019 to 2020, the number of pill-assisted abortions increased by 22%, according to the report.
The pill, mifepristone, has become a flashpoint in the reproductive rights battle since the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down federal abortion rights in June. Since then, abortion has been banned in twelve states, but it’s hard to ban the pill because it’s easier to get it.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration has suspended the requirement for women to receive mifepristone in person, allowing them to get the pills through the mail and at retail pharmacies. In December 2021, the drug agency announced that it would make this change permanent.
Last week, anti-abortion groups petitioned a Texas federal court to overturn a more than two-decade-old FDA approval for mifepristone. The group’s lawyers belong to Alliance Defending Freedom involved in Dobbs v. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which led to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and eight other senators wrote to the FDA last week asking them to expand access to mifepristone, approving its use to treat miscarriages. Senators wrote that it would improve women’s access to birth control pills in states that restrict access.
The FDA has approved mifepristone in combination with misoprostol tablets as a method of terminating a pregnancy before the 10th week. Mifepristone prevents the pregnancy from continuing, while misoprostol causes contractions that empty the uterus. This method is effective in 96-98% of early pregnancy terminations.
Abortion pills are becoming an increasingly common method of terminating a pregnancy in the US. The number of pill-assisted abortions increased by 154% from 2011 to 2020, according to the CDC.
More than 620,000 abortions were performed in the US in 2020, down 15% from 2011. before the CDC date.
Surgical abortions are the second most common method of terminating a pregnancy. According to the CDC, about 40% of all abortions were performed through surgical procedures at or before the 13th week of pregnancy.