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More Women Sought Medication Abortion Services Online After Texas Banned Abortions Amid COVID-19

Medication abortions are administered through pills.
Medication abortions are administered through pills.

During a ban on abortion services in Texas earlier this year, more women sought out a telemedicine abortion service called Aid Access.

According to a new study from UT Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, there was a 27% increase in the rate of requests for medication abortion by mail in the U.S. between March 20 and April 11 compared to the beginning of the year.

Aid Access is the only telemedicine abortion service in the U.S. It helps patients who qualify access medication abortions, which are administered through pills.  

Dr. Abigail Aiken, the author of the study, said she saw the biggest increase in requests in Texas. She said the state, which had the most severe restrictions on abortion at the time, saw a 94% increase in requests in that period.

“Texas had almost a doubling of requests to Aid Access,” Aiken said.

On March 23, state officials  announced that abortion services were part of the state’s ban on medical procedures that are “not immediately medically necessary” during the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

A few days prior, Gov. Greg Abbott had ordered all licensed health care professionals and facilities to "postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary” in an effort to preserve medical personnel and resources to respond to COVID-19.

Abortion providers eventually sued the state arguing abortions use very little protective equipment and are essential and time-sensitive procedures. In the weeks the ban remained in place, providers said they canceled hundreds of procedures across the state, causing  despair and frustration among their patients.

Aiken said her study shows what happens when a state makes it hard for women to get an abortion in a formal health care setting.

“What you see is that people still need to get abortion care – it is time-sensitive care,” she said. “And if they are going to have trouble getting to a clinic, more than usual, they will look outside the formal health care setting.”

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