Mail-order abortion is a safe and effective option with high patient satisfaction, a new study published in Contraception finds.
For two decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has restricted the availability of the abortion pill mifepristone, requiring it to be dispensed and taken in a hospital or clinic under a medical provider’s supervision—not at home. In recent years, several companies have begun offering the pills by mail, in defiance of the FDA. They, along with many choice activists, assert that the limitations on the abortion pill are political, not evidence-based.
The study suggests they’re right. The FDA temporarily loosened access to abortion pills during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing consumers to take the pills at home.
“The science is clear--the in-person dispensing requirement is unnecessary to safely and effectively provide medication abortion care. Removing the restrictions on medication abortion and allowing it to be mailed can expand access and change the way care is provided,” said Daniel Grossman, MD, Director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSRH), and study author.
For the study, researchers enrolled patients across four states at five different clinics. Two clinics had not previously provided abortions. All patients received medication for an abortion in the mail, rather than in a clinic. All of the participants took the drug at less than 70 days gestation—less than 10 weeks pregnant.
Of the 94.6% of patients for whom researchers were able to get follow up data, 95.4% said they were very satisfied 3 days later, with 6.9% reporting being somewhat satisfied. Eleven (4.9%) had complications. Just two were serious—one transfusion and one hospitalization.
This is a very low complication rate—lower than is typical of minor surgeries than wisdom tooth removal. The blood transfusion rate for childbirth is at least triple the figure from the study.
In the wake of increasingly restrictive abortion laws, many pregnant people have gone to extraordinary lengths. One study found that 8% of Texas women self-induced their own abortions. Another found that abortion bans will increase maternal deaths. This study points to a safer option as the right continues to restrict abortion access.
Ongoing data from the Turnaway study proves that being denied an abortion damages virtually every aspect of health and well-being, significantly constraining a pregnant person’s life choices.
That’s always been the point. Anti-choice activists are just as aware of the science on abortion as everyone else. Endangering, perhaps even taking, women’s lives for having sex is the goal.