Study finds higher demand for abortion medication online in states with restrictive laws

Study finds higher demand for abortion medication online in states with restrictive laws
© Stefani Reynolds

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health Thursday shows that women who live in states with restrictive anti-abortion laws are going online to find medication that can induce the procedure.

The study analyzes data from Women on the Web (WoW). WoW is an online European medication service that provides abortion pills to women around world where safe abortions are not available.

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According to the study, from October 2017 to August 2018, more than 6,000 Americans went to WoW for abortion pills. All states were represented, but 76 percent of the people lived in states that have strict abortion laws.

Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas were the states where the demand was highest.

Dr. Abigail Aiken, the study's lead author and assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, told NBC News "we know that requiring people to come for two ultrasounds or have a waiting period makes the abortion cost more." 

"In supportive states, the biggest barrier was fear of harassment by protesters," Aiken added.

Women seeking abortion pills from WoW first need to have an online consult with a licensed physician. If everything checks out, then they are sent two pills: mifepristone and misoprostol.

NBC News reports that while the pills can have side effects such as pain, heavy bleeding and fever, another study by Aiken suggests as long as they are taken early in the pregnancy, pills are as safe as going to a clinic.

However, according to the news source, the Federal Drug Administration warns consumers: "Drugs purchased from foreign internet sources are not the FDA-approved versions of the drugs, and they are not subject to FDA-regulated manufacturing controls or FDA inspection of manufacturing facilities."