People who face barriers to abortion care are more likely to attempt self-managed abortion
Growing restrictions on abortion care in the United States have increased interest in self-managed abortion. Using data from the Google Ads Abortion Access Study, ANSIRH researchers developed an innovative approach to measure the incidence of attempted self-managed abortion among pregnant individuals in the US searching Google for abortion care. They found that attempted self-managed abortion is higher among people facing barriers to abortion care.
People reported using various methods to try to terminate their pregnancies:
- Taking herbs, supplements, or vitamins, was the most common method reported, with over half of those attempting self-managed abortion reporting using these.
- About 19% of those who attempted self-managed abortion took emergency contraception (after confirming their pregnancy) or multiple oral contraceptive pills.
- Eighteen percent reported taking mifepristone and/or misoprostol on their own, including 8% who ordered abortion pills online.
- Eighteen percent reported hurting themselves in the abdomen or other forms of physical trauma.
- Ten percent reported smoking, using alcohol, or other substances to end the pregnancy.
- Seven percent reported taking prescription or over-the-counter medications.
People who faced barriers like greater travel distance, needing to gather money for travel or for the abortion, having to keep the abortion a secret, and fear of violence that would affect their well-being, were significantly more likely to have attempted self-managed abortion.
State-level restrictions such as limitations on abortion after a specific gestation and Medicaid bans increase barriers to abortion including those reported by the participants in this study. People who experienced these obstacles were more likely to attempt self-managed abortion, which can lead to delays in accessing medical care if it is unsuccessful. Expanding equitable access to abortion care is essential, including increasing the number and types of clinicians who can provide abortion, allowing pharmacy access to abortion pills, and approving telehealth models of abortion care.