Report shows more than half of Virginia abortions done via pill in 2021

Chemical abortions (the abortion pill) have comprised a growing share of Virginia’s total abortions in recent years, constituting more than half by 2021.

Data from the Virginia Department of Health showed that the 56% (9,538 of the 17,027) of the state’s abortions were “medical,” up from 47.8% in 2020. The share was 27.5% (5,137 of 18,667) in 2015, 29.2% (5,079 of 17,381) in 2016 , 31.5% (4,857 of 15,395) in 2017, 34.5% (5,687 of 16,475) in 2018, and 37.3% (5,875 of 15,751) in 2019.

Last week, The Virginia Mercury quoted the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood’s medical director saying they’ve seen a gradual increase in the number of patients seeking the pill. “We are really seeing patients for medication abortion almost every day of the week at our sites,” claimed Dr. Shanthi Ramesh.

Virginia’s trend seemed to track with a nationwide growth in the pill’s usage as reported by the Guttmacher Institute. The pro-abortion organization reported that the abortion pill regimen constituted 53% of abortions in 2020, up from 39% in 2019 and 31% in 2014. Just after the pill’s approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it comprised only 6% of abortions in 2001.

The steady increase in consumption has coincided with successive deregulation of the pill by the FDA. Recent court decisions, however, have made it possible that the pill form may drop in usage alongside decreases in conventional abortions. 

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A Texas judge, for example, upended the FDA’s initial approval of the pill earlier this month, followed by a decision from a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel that instead chose to roll back abortion pill use and distribution to pre-2016 protocols. Last week, the Supreme Court stayed that decision but didn’t impose a final ruling. Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative law firm arguing the case, said its lawsuit would continue to move forward in the court system.

“As is common practice, the Supreme Court has decided to maintain the status quo that existed prior to our lawsuit while our challenge to the FDA’s illegal approval of chemical abortion drugs and its removal of critical safeguards for those drugs moves forward,” said attorney Erik Baptist. “Our case seeking to put women’s health above politics continues on an expedited basis in the lower courts.” 

Pro-abortion advocates have attempted to argue the abortion pill is safe while blue states have stocked up on the two drugs (misoprostol and mifepristone) in anticipation of further restrictions on mifepristone. But as pro-life doctors have noted, the abortion pill regimen poses significant risks to women’s health – not to mention ending preborn children’s lives. These risks have been exacerbated by the FDA’s decision to remove the in-person requirement, which had previously helped to determine accurate gestational age and screen out ectopic pregnancies. 

While women’s and children’s lives hang in the balance, it’s unclear how the courts will ultimately leave access to the abortion pill. Countering the Texas ruling, another out of Washington affirmed the FDA’s approval of the drug. And last week, manufacturer GenBioPro asked a court to pre-emptively block the FDA from removing approval of the drug.

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