Medication Abortions Now Account for Most American Abortions

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Source: Robin Marty, “IMG_7136,”, Nov. 12, 2018, Creative Commons license

Preliminary research from the Guttmacher Institute found that 54% of abortions performed in the United States in 2020 were medication abortions, an increase from 39% in 2017. Though the drugs’ use has steadily increased since FDA approval, 2020 saw a significant jump and marked the first year medication abortion accounted for the majority of abortions performed. [1] [2] [3]

Medication abortion is a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol. The combination was approved by the FDA in 2000 for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. The drugs are sometimes prescribed after 10 weeks in “off label” use. [1] [2] [3]

Some of the increase may be accounted for by the FDA allowing the pills to be mailed to patients in Apr. 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rule was expanded in Dec. 2021 to permanently allow the pills to be mailed to patients, eliminating the requirement that patients visit a doctor in-person. [1] [3]

This research comes amid news that people in Texas who sought abortions were mostly able to obtain them after the passage of the state’s restrictive abortion law, Texas Senate Bill 8. The abortion rate fell 10%, with most people traveling to another state or using medication abortion. [4] [5] [6] [7]

A University of Texas at Austin study found that about 1,400 people per month traveled to nearby states, including New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, and Colorado, to get an abortion, about a 12-fold increase in the number who traveled for abortions. [4] [5] [7]

And a study published in JAMA open network found that an average of 1,100 people placed orders for abortion pills online each month, though the study did not confirm if the pills were used. [4] [6] [7]

As of Feb. 22, 2022, sixteen states had introduced and eight states had passed laws in 2022 that ban medication abortion, require in-person visits in the state, and/or limit the drugs’ use to fewer than 10 weeks into the pregnancy. 32 states require the person prescribing a medication abortion to be a physician. 19 states require the prescriber to be physically present (eliminating telemedicine). Mailing abortion pills is banned in Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas, though bans on mailing have been blocked by courts in Montana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. [1] [2]

A US Supreme Court ruling on abortion is expected in June 2022 in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case could overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade, the only federal precedent for legal abortion in the United States. [8]

Discussion Questions

1. Should abortion be legal? Why or why not?

2. Should states be able to make laws about the availability of abortion pills? Why or why not?

3. Should the US Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade? Consider the question from both an anti-abortion (abortion should be illegal) and a pro-legal-abortion (Roe v. Wade is an imperfect abortion protection) point-of-view. Explain your answers.


1. Rachel K. Jones, et al., “Medication Abortion Now Accounts for More Than Half of All US Abortions,”, Feb. 24, 2022

2. Tierney Sneed, “Medication Abortion Now Makes Up the Majority of Us Abortions, Study Shows, As States Push to Restrict It,”, Feb. 24, 2022

3. Pam Belluck, “Abortion Pills Now Account for More Than Half of U.S. Abortions.”, Feb. 24, 2022

4. Monique Beals, “Most Texas Women Were Able to Get Abortions despite New Law: Studies,”, Mar. 6, 2022

5. Kari White, et al., “Out-of-State Travel for Abortion Following Implementation of Texas Senate Bill 8,”, Mar. 2022

6. Abigail R. A. Aiken, et al., “Association of Texas Senate Bill 8 With Requests for Self-managed Medication Abortion,”, Feb. 25, 2022

7. Margot Sanger-Katz, Claire Cain Miller, and Quoctrung Bui, “Most Women Denied Abortions by Texas Law Got Them Another Way,”, Mar. 6, 2022

8. Jessica Glenza, “Blue States Seek to Protect Abortion Rights before Supreme Court Decision,”, Mar. 4, 2022