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  • Posted March 19, 2024

U.S. Abortion Rates Rose After Dobbs Decision, Led by Medication Abortions

Following the historic reversal of Roe v. Wade in June of 2022, the number of abortions in the United States has risen to more than a million per year, with medication abortions representing nearly two-thirds of those cases.

The numbers come from a new report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on sexual and reproductive health that supports access to abortion. 

The report found an estimated 1,026,690 abortions performed within the formal U.S. health care system during 2023 -- the first full calendar year since the Dobbs decision led some states to ban abortion. 

That's a 10% rise from 2020 and the most abortions seen in the U.S. since 2011, the new report noted. By 2023, it found, there were 15.7 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age.

Much of the rise was linked to a steady surge in medication abortions -- from 53% of all cases in 2020 to 63% by 2023, the institute said. Overall, about 642,700 medication abortions occurred within the formal health care system.

In a medication abortion, women typically take two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, to induce an abortion early in a pregnancy. 

“Improved access to medication abortion is a positive development, but it is not a panacea,” Rachel Jones, Guttmacher principal research scientist, said in a statement from the institute. “As abortion restrictions proliferate post-Dobbs, medication abortion may be the most viable option -- or the only option -- for some people, even if they would have preferred in-person procedural care."

The report also found that almost every state without an abortion ban in place saw a sharp rise in numbers. Abortions rose by about 25% between 2020 and 2023 in states without total abortion bans, the report found. 

"The sharpest increases were seen in states bordering ban states, where abortions increased by 37% from 2020 to 2023," according to the Guttmacher statement.

The new numbers come ahead of oral arguments slated to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26, regarding continued access to mifepristone.

“As our latest data emphasize, more than three out of five abortion patients in the United States use medication abortion," Amy Friedrich-Karnik, director of federal policy at the institute, said in the statement. "Reinstating outdated and medically unnecessary restrictions on the provision of mifepristone would negatively impact people's lives and decrease abortion access across the country."

In 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted some restrictions on access to mifespristone, allowing it to be mailed directly to patients rather than having it only be dispensed in-person. 

The new data is based on Guttmacher's Monthly Abortion Provision Study, which tracks "abortions provided at brick-and-mortar health care facilities (such as clinics or doctor's offices) as well as medication abortions provided via telehealth and virtual providers located in the United States," the institute said.

More information

Find out more about medication abortion at the Cleveland Clinic.

SOURCE: Guttmacher Institute, news release, March 19, 2024

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