Most US abortions performed by pill now

Medication abortion made up 54 percent of U.S. abortions in 2020, according to preliminary data from the Guttmacher Institute's census of all known abortion providers.

The Guttmacher Institute — a research organization that aims to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights — conducts the census every three years. The most recent survey, collecting information from 2019-20, is still underway. Preliminary data reflects information from 75 percent of U.S. clinics that provided abortion care in 2020; the final proportion of medication abortions is likely to closely match the current estimate, according to the institute. Final estimates are set to be released in late 2022, with the medication-abortion proportion not expected to fall below 50 percent.  

In 2000, the FDA approved mifepristone as a method of abortion. Taken along with misoprostol, the drug combination is approved for use up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy.

Six things to know, per the Guttmacher Institute: 

1. 2020 is the first time medication abortion became the majority of all abortions, up from 44 percent in 2019, according to preliminary data.  

2. Hospitals accounted for only 3 percent of abortions provided in all survey years.  

3. Medication abortion use has been steadily rising since first approved, and the pandemic likely accelerated that trend. Starting in April 2020, the FDA allowed abortion pills to be mailed to patients. In Arizona, Arkansas and Texas, mailing abortion pills to patients is currently banned. 

4. Increasing use may also be tied to an increase in policies that allow nonphysician medical professionals — such as physician assistants and advanced-practice nurses — to provide medication abortion. Currently, 32 states require providers who administer medication abortion to be physicians. In 19 states, the clinician providing a medication abortion must be physically present when the medication is administered.

5. Texas bans the use of medication abortion starting at seven weeks of pregnancy.

6. This year, as of Feb. 22, 16 state legislatures have introduced bans or restrictions on medication abortion.

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