Boxes of the drug Mifepristone used to induce a medical abortion are readied for patients at Planned Parenthood Health Center in Birmingham, Alabama, March 14, 2022.
Evelien Hockstein | Reuters
The abortion pill is the most common method of terminating a pregnancy in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC found in a report published Wednesday that about 51% of abortions in 2020 were performed on the pill on or before the ninth week of pregnancy. According to the report, abortions using the pill increased by 22% between 2019 and 2020.
The pill, mifepristone, has become a focal point in the reproductive rights battle in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to scrap federal abortion rights in June. Twelve states have since banned abortion, but banning the pill is difficult because it has become more readily available.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration has suspended the requirement for women to obtain mifepristone in person, allowing them to receive the pill by mail and at pharmacies. The drug agency announced in December 2021 that it would make this change permanent.
Anti-abortion groups last week asked a federal court in Texas to overturn the more than two-decade-old FDA approval of mifepristone. The groups’ attorneys are from the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization involved in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that led the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and eight other senators wrote last week asking the FDA to expand access to mifepristone by approving its use for miscarriage management. This would improve women’s access to the pill in states that restrict access, the senators wrote.
The FDA has approved mifepristone in combination with the misoprostol tablet as a method of terminating pregnancies before the 10th week. Mifepristone prevents the pregnancy from continuing and misoprostol causes contractions that empty the uterus. The method is 96% to 98% effective in terminating early pregnancies.
The abortion pill has become an increasingly common way to terminate a pregnancy in the US. Birth control births increased 154% from 2011 to 2020, according to data from the CDC.
More than 620,000 abortions were performed in the US in 2020, a 15% decrease since 2011. Nearly all abortions, 93%, are performed on or before the 13th week of pregnancy and 80% are done on or before the ninth week, according to the CDC data.
Surgical abortions are the second most common method of terminating a pregnancy. According to the CDC, about 40% of all abortions were performed with surgical procedures during or before that 13th week of pregnancy.