Boxes of mifepristone medication used to induce medical abortion are prepared for patients at Planned Parenthood Health Center in Birmingham, Alabama on March 14, 2022.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
The abortion pill is the most common method of terminating a pregnancy in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC, in a report released Wednesday, found that about 51% of abortions in 2020 were performed with the pill at or before the ninth week of pregnancy. From 2019 to 2020, abortions with the pill increased by 22%, according to the report.
The pill, mifepristone, became a flashpoint in the battle over reproductive rights following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down federal abortion rights in June. Twelve states have banned abortion since then, but banning the pill is difficult because it has become easier to obtain.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration suspended the requirement for women to obtain mifepristone in person, allowing them to receive the pill by mail and at retail pharmacies. The drug agency announced in December 2021 that it would make this change permanent.
Last week, anti-abortion groups petitioned a Texas federal court to overturn the more than two-decade-old FDA approval of mifepristone. The groups’ lawyers are from the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization implicated in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which led the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and eight other senators called on the FDA in a letter last week to expand access to mifepristone by approving its use for the management of miscarriages. It 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 for 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 ending early pregnancy.
The abortion pill has become an increasingly common means of terminating a pregnancy in the United States. Abortions using the pill have increased by 154% from 2011 to 2020, according to CDC data.
More than 620,000 abortions were performed in the United States in 2020, a 15% decrease since 2011. Almost all abortions, 93%, are performed at or before the 13th week of pregnancy, and 80% are performed at or before the ninth week, according to CDC data.
Surgical abortions are the second most common method of ending a pregnancy. About 40% of all abortions were performed with surgical procedures at or before that 13th week of pregnancy, according to the CDC.