WASHINGTON (OSV News) — The number of legal abortions provided by virtual-only clinics via abortion pill prescriptions spiked 72% in the year following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, according to a report by #WeCount, a research project by the Society of Family Planning, a group that supports legal abortion.
The study is notable because it is the first full-year census of U.S. abortion providers following the June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that sheds light on how they view trends in their industry. The survey only considered data from licensed clinics within the health care system, researchers said, and does not account for what may be illegal procedures, such as abortion pills ordered from overseas.
The increase in abortions at virtual-only clinics, which use telemedicine to prescribe an abortion-inducing drug regimen to patients, comports with some previous studies showing similar results post-Dobbs. Even prior to that decision, data from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that more than half of the abortions performed in the U.S. were chemical or medical, rather than surgical.
The #WeCount report, which examined the period from April 2022 to June 2023, found that although abortions decreased in states that have banned or limited the procedure, abortions increased nationally.
“The Dobbs decision turned abortion access in this country upside down,” Dr. Alison Norris, #WeCount co-chair and a professor at The Ohio State University’s College of Public Health, said in a statement. The increase, she said, demonstrates that people seeking abortions will travel for them despite “tremendous hardships,” while those who cannot travel can face “mental, emotional and economic impacts.”
The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death. As such, the church opposes direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child.
After the Dobbs decision, church officials in the U.S. have reiterated the church’s concern for both mother and child, as well as about social issues that push women toward having an abortion.
Asked about the #WeCount report, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder and president of New Wave Feminists, told OSV News that “this is why at New Wave Feminists we have always said our goal isn’t to make abortion illegal, but to make it unthinkable and unnecessary through practical support.”
“You make it unnecessary by creating a society that doesn’t penalize pregnant people for choosing life,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “Most of the individuals who contact us need help with housing, child care, health care resources and transportation. Many work at minimum wage jobs that don’t offer any type of family leave, and they know that continuing their pregnancy means they won’t be able to feed their other children, so they feel trapped.”
“The irony of ‘choice,’” she added, “is that abortion decisions are often only made when a person feels they have no other choice at all because society is only willing to provide the cheapest option (such as abortion pills), but won’t actually invest in the safety nets that would assist them in choosing life and parenting.”
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, told OSV News that “in a perfect world #WeCount and the Society for Family Planning would put as much energy into investing in programs to support parenthood as they do to support abortion.”
“The almost celebration of the increased number of virtual abortions is deeply disturbing,” Day said. “The push for virtual abortion leaves women alone and endangered if something goes wrong.”
A post-Roe world, Day said, requires society to be “more innovative and creative in ensuring that women have the opportunity to choose to have their babies.”
“We need to build support systems” for women, Day said, and “stop advocating for abortion by mail, leaving women to suffer by themselves in silence.”
Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) @kgscanlon.