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NEWS: Despite state bans, abortions nationwide are up, driven by telehealth

by | May 16, 2024 | Repro Health Watch

Despite State Bans, Abortions Nationwide Are Up, Driven by Telehealth

NPR, May 14, 2024

In the 18 months following the Supreme Court’s decision that ended federal protection for abortion, the number of abortions in the U.S. has continued to grow, according to The Society of Family Planning’s WeCount project. According to the report, in 2023 there were, on average, 86,000 abortions per month compared to 2022, where there were about 82,000 abortions per month. The slight increase comes despite the fact that 14 states had total abortion bans in place during the time of the research. According to the report, there were about 145,000 fewer abortions in person in those states since the Dobbs decision, which triggered many of the restrictive state laws. The latest report also captures for the first time the impact of providers offering telehealth abortions from states with protections for doctors and clinics known as shield laws — statutes that say they can’t be prosecuted or held liable for providing abortion care to people from other states. Between July and December 2023, more than 40,000 people in states with abortion bans and telehealth restrictions received medication abortion through providers in states protected by shield laws. Abortion pills can be prescribed via telehealth appointments and sent through the mail; the pills can safely end pregnancies in the first trimester. The report includes abortions happening within the U.S. healthcare system, and does not include self-managed abortions, when people take pills at home without the oversight of a clinician. For that reason, researchers believe these numbers are still an undercount of abortions happening in the U.S. According to the report, telehealth abortions now make up 19% of all abortions in the U.S. In comparison, the first WeCount report which spanned April 2022 through August 2022 showed telehealth abortions accounted for just 4% of all abortions. Research has shown that telehealth abortions are as safe and effective as in-clinic care.

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More Than Half of Black Women Ages 15-49 Live With Little to No Abortion Access

NBC News, May 15, 2024

Nearly 7 million of the country’s 11.8 million Black women of reproductive age live in states with abortion restrictions or plans to implement them, according to a new report from a pair of reproductive rights organizations. The report illustrates the number of Black women affected by abortion restrictions across the country. It was released Wednesday by the National Partnership for Women & Families, or NPWF, and the organization In Our Own Voice. According to the report, 57% of Black women ages 15 to 49 (which the organizations consider reproductive age) live in states with bans or threats to abortion access, which have increased in the two years since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Jocelyn Frye, president of the NPWF, said in an interview that Black women in those states are “overwhelmingly” concerned about their physical and economic security. The report also found that 2.7 million of the Black women of reproductive age living in such states are already “economically insecure” and that 1.4 million of them work in service jobs — which are less likely to provide resources like paid sick days, flexible scheduling and more. They include Black women with disabilities, multiracial Black women, veterans and immigrants. “In addition to abortion bans, they’re also concerned about things like economic opportunity and cost of living, racial justice, which are directly tied to the abortion bans,” Frye said. About 43% of Black women of childbearing age living in states with abortion restrictions or where abortion is under threat are in Texas, Florida and Georgia, three states with some of the toughest laws, according to the report. That tracks considering Southern states make up a majority of states with abortion restrictions, and most of the nation’s Black population is concentrated in the South.

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Abortion Bans Are Repelling the Nation’s Future Doctors

The Washington Post, May 13, 2024

Ash Panakam is about to graduate from Harvard Medical School. She’s from Georgia and always assumed she would return to the South for her residency. But the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning the nationwide right to abortion changed everything. “Ultimately I shifted my selection pretty drastically,” she said. “I was struggling to find a residency program in the South where I could still get the training I consider fundamental to the skill set needed to be an OB/GYN.” Instead of going home to Georgia, she’s headed to Pittsburgh to start her medical residency this summer. Panakam has plenty of company. For the second year running, fewer graduating U.S. medical students applied for residency training in states with abortion bans or restrictions than in the previous year, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. (Overall applications were down slightly, because students are being urged to apply to fewer programs, but the decrease was markedly larger in states where abortion is illegal or significantly restricted.) It’s not just obstetrician-gynecologists; the decline crosses specialties, including those that don’t serve primarily pregnant patients. That could threaten the future of the overall medical workforce in states with bans, because doctors tend to locate permanently where they do residencies.“The geographic misalignment between where the needs are and where people are choosing to go is really problematic,” said Debra Stulberg, who chairs the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Chicago. “We don’t need people further concentrating in urban areas where there’s already good access.” The concerns of graduating medical students extend beyond their ability to practice medicine; they’re also worried about their own health, or that of their partners. “People don’t feel safe potentially having their own pregnancies living in those states,” Stulberg said.

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Enforcement of Arizona’s 1864 Abortion Ban Delayed Until Late September

The 19th, May 13, 2024

The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to delay the enforcement of a 160-year-old abortion ban that mandates prison time for doctors, granting women and health care providers across the state a reprieve until September. In doing so, the court granted a request from Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, who asked the justices to delay the implementation of the court’s April 9 ruling on the Civil War-era abortion ban so she could craft an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In its bombshell April ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court revived a law from 1864 that carries with it a 2 to 5 year prison sentence for doctors who perform an abortion for any other reason than saving a woman’s life. The decision upended the political landscape in Arizona, and led to weeks of turmoil at the state legislature as Democrats and a handful of Republican lawmakers pushed to repeal the near-total ban. And while that effort finally proved successful on May 1, the repeal won’t go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which is still nowhere in sight. That uncertainty prompted reproductive rights advocates to use legal maneuvers to delay the court’s ruling as much as possible. On April 30, Mayes, a Democrat who campaigned on a promise to protect abortion access, filed a motion requesting a 90-day pause while her office explored the possibility of appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the Arizona Supreme Court froze enforcement of the 1864 law until Aug. 12. But because of a different court-ordered 45-day stay on implementing the Supreme Court’s ruling, it means the 1864 law can’t be enforced until Sept. 26. In a written statement, Mayes said she was grateful for the increased delay, and vowed to continue looking into whether to appeal the state court’s ruling, saying she believes it warrants further discussion.

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Louisiana Moves to Make Abortion Pills ‘Controlled Dangerous Substances’

The Washington Post, May 13, 2024

Louisiana could become the first state in the country to categorize mifepristone and misoprostol — the drugs used to induce an abortion — as controlled dangerous substances, threatening incarceration and fines if an individual possesses the pills without a valid prescription or outside of professional practice. Legislators in Baton Rouge added the provision as a last-minute amendment to a Senate bill that would criminalize an abortion if someone gives a pregnant woman the pills without her consent, a scenario of “coerced criminal abortion” that nearly occurred with one senator’s sister. A pregnant woman obtaining the two drugs “for her own consumption” would not be at risk of prosecution. But, with the exception of a health-care practitioner, a person helping her get the pills would be. Louisiana already bans both medication and surgical abortions except to save a patient’s life or because a pregnancy is “medically futile.” Lawmakers just rejected adding exceptions for teenagers under 17 who become pregnant through rape or incest. The amendment would list mifepristone and misoprostol under the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law, which regulates depressants, opioids and other drugs that can be highly addictive. It elicited a strong reaction from more than 240 Louisiana doctors, who called it “not scientifically based.” “Adding a safe, medically indicated drug for miscarriage management … creates the false perception that these are dangerous drugs that require additional regulation,” they wrote in a letter sent last week to the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Thomas Pressly. They noted misoprostol’s other critical uses, including to prevent gastrointestinal ulcers and to aid in labor and delivery. “Given its historically poor maternal health outcomes, Louisiana should prioritize safe and evidence-based care for pregnant women,” they urged.

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Note: The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.