People Are Stocking Up on Abortion Pills in Record Numbers

New research makes clear that people are following news about abortion access and trying to be proactive amid the chaotic national legal landscape.

People Are Stocking Up on Abortion Pills in Record Numbers

In February, Jezebel recommended purchasing abortion pills in advance of an unwanted pregnancy—which is called advance provision—ahead of the current legal back-and-forth surrounding the FDA’s 2000 approval of the pill. A couple of months later, in April, a far-right federal judge attempted to overturn that approval, prompting legal mayhem that’s since worked its way to the Supreme Court, where a ruling to challenge the pill is slated for this summer. According to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Tuesday, requests for abortion pills from people who weren’t pregnant surged during this period of uncertainty. The research letter cites data provided by Aid Access, a Europe-based telemedicine service that mails medication abortion to all 50 states.

According to the letter, Aid Access received nearly 50,000 (48,400) requests for advance provision of abortion pills between September 2021—when Texas enacted its six-week, so-called bounty hunter abortion ban replicated by several states—through April 2023, when Texas judge Matthew Kacsmaryk tried to ban most abortion pills. Researchers note that advance provision requests peaked in May 2022 when it was leaked that the Supreme Court planned to overturn Roe v. Wade. Eight months before the leak, the average number of daily requests for advance provision of abortion pills sat at around 25; after the leak, that number increased nearly 10-fold, soaring to 247. After the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe arrived in June 2022, daily requests dropped to 89—which could have stemmed from apprehension about running into legal trouble—before rising, again, to 172 in April 2023. The research makes clear that people are following the increasingly sporadic news about abortion access and what it means for their lives, and trying to be proactive amid the chaotic national legal landscape.

“People are looking at looming threats to reproductive health access, looming threats to their reproductive rights, and potentially thinking to themselves: How can I prepare for this? Or how can I get around this or get out ahead of this?” Dr. Abigail Aiken, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the letter’s authors, told the Associated Press. Aiken noted that advance provision of abortion pills is “a very new idea for a lot of folks” and hasn’t been “standard practice” in the U.S. “It will actually be news to a lot of people that it’s even something that is offered,” she said.

The research letter further reveals that certain demographics are more likely to request medication abortion in advance. A greater proportion of those seeking advance provision of the pills were older than 30, white, without children, and living in urban, wealthier areas. This data makes sense: Abortion pills aren’t exactly cheap (though some resources like Aid Access offer sliding-scale payment options), and abortion funds understandably offer financial support to people with unwanted pregnancies who urgently need abortion.

Most abortion pills can be kept up to two years as long as they’re unopened and stored at room temperature. Since early 2022, medication abortion has accounted for the majority of abortions in the U.S., and typically involves two pills to end the pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol. Stockpiling abortion pills from providers that offer them in advance is a smart idea given the constant uncertainty surrounding abortion rights in the U.S.—and, as Jezebel has previously noted, purchasing abortion pills and self-managing abortion at home can come with its own legal risks in a country where pregnancy outcomes are increasingly surveilled and policed. People who are interested in purchasing abortion pills should familiarize themselves with legal and medical resources like the Repro Legal Defense Fund and the confidential M+A (Miscarriage+Abortion) Hotline.

Continued threats to medication abortion, specifically, could have significant ramifications for abortion access across the country, forcing greater demand for in-clinic, procedural abortion and forcing more people to travel for care. As one legal expert previously told Jezebel, “The waiting times that we see are going to balloon to the point where it’s really making abortion almost inaccessible throughout the country, not just for people in red states traveling…if the New York clinics are backed up, and you need an abortion, you’re not going to feel like you have access.”

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