Pro-life advocates welcomed the report with cautious optimism, but also noted other negative trends, including a rise in the use of the abortion pill and women traveling to other states for abortions.Pro-Life Pregnancy Resource Networks See Early Impacts of Dobbs, Amid Report of 6% National Abortion Decrease| National Catholic Register
In the months after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, pro-life resource networks are helping women and seeing trends amid a reported national decrease in abortions.
The dust is still settling following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, as 13 states have now barred abortion with few exceptions: A recent study by the pro-abortion group Society of Family Planning’s #WeCount reporting effort found that abortions had decreased 6% overall in the two months following the June 24 Dobbs decision.
As pro-life groups welcome that report with cautious optimism, pro-life pregnancy resource networks told the Register that following Dobbs they have seen slight increases or no change in the number of women seeking assistance. But they also noted other negative trends, including a rise in the use of the abortion pill mifepristone and women traveling to other states for abortions.
The WeCount group found that there were 10,670 or 6% fewer abortions in July and August, as compared to pre-Dobbs estimates for April and May 2022. The abortion activists employed a database of abortion businesses and received data from 79% of the abortion providers they reached out to, representing an estimated 82% of abortions provided nationwide. Its report included medical and surgical abortions but did not include “self-managed” abortions conducted without medical supervision through mail-order abortion-pill groups like Aid Access.
Numbers in Context
Tessa Longbons, senior research associate at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, told the Register that the study was significant, as “the abortion industry and pro-lifers are recognizing that Dobbs has resulted in abortions being prevented, which will result in lives being saved.”
She said that while the study focused on the months right after Dobbs, “if you extrapolate that out into an entire year, that’s a lot of lives saved: 65,000 to 90,000 abortions prevented per year.”
Longbons said the study’s numbers should be interpreted “in the context of what was happening with abortions in the United States before Dobbs,” as “the abortion rate wasn’t static; it had been increasing.”
Numbers from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute in June found that the number of abortions in 2020 had increased 8% from 2017. She said, given these numbers, the fact that “not only did abortions not increase, they went down dramatically, is enormous, in terms of lives saved.”
She also noted that after Roe v. Wade was decided, “there was only around a 5% increase in reported abortions in 1973, but then in the years after that, abortions began increasing dramatically; and so, by the end of the 1970s, there were over a million a year.” She thought that just as “the impact of Roe v. Wade wasn’t felt immediately,” the impact of Dobbs “will be felt long term.”
Longbons said that the pro-life movement has always emphasized “the importance of having good data to measure the impact of policy” and hoped that the statistics would be tracked more closely in the future. She pointed out that states like California are excluded from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s abortion statistics, as reporting is voluntary, leaving blind spots in the country’s awareness of the number of abortions nationwide.
“We shouldn’t be leaving it up to the abortion industry to voluntarily report these numbers; it should be something that we are officially collecting,” she said.
Women Seeking Pregnancy Help
Chelsey Youman is Texas state director and national legislative adviser for the Human Coalition, a pro-life nonprofit group that operates marketing outreach and pregnancy care centers for abortion-minded women.
She told the Register that the recent WeCount study indicates that “this is just a geographical change in abortion, but abortion is still widespread,” given the uptick in abortions in the states where abortion is legal.
She said that the number of women reaching out to their centers has been “pretty consistent” before and after Dobbs, representing “steady numbers” but not “a huge influx.”
Melissa Nystrom, spokeswoman for Heartbeat International, a network of pro-life pregnancy centers, with nearly 2,000 affiliates in the U.S., told the Register that an informal survey of their affiliates found a similar steady number of women seeking help without large increases.
“The majority of the nearly 300 pregnancy-help organizations that responded to our informal survey are seeing either no change or an increase in general calls, client decisions to carry, abortion-pill-reversal calls and abortion-pill complications and concerns,” she said.
“Only 6% of respondents said that they have seen a decrease in clients deciding to carry,” Nystrom added. “This held true regardless of whether state legislation was mostly pro-life, pro-abortion or in between.”
Abortion Travel and Pills From International Suppliers
For Youman’s group, there has been an increase in out-of-state inquiries from women in states where abortion is limited.
“We have clinics in North Carolina and Georgia, and we have a lot more Georgia residents calling our North Carolina clinics,” she said. “We’re having a lot of women from out of state reach into the states that are still allowing abortion.”
She said this happens when “they’re past the Georgia deadline and our advertisements come up as care for women seeking abortion, and it’s indicative, really, of migration trends on the issue.”
According to Youman, while 76% of the women the Human Coalition serves say they would prefer to parent if their “circumstances were different,” post-Dobbs, they have seen “an increase in women who are just saying, ‘It’s my right to have abortion; it’s my body’” and a “hardening of hearts towards the life growing in their womb.”
She said this is evidence that “the cultural battle is still at hand, and there’s so much work to be done on the cultural front, reminding people who maybe are hardened right now on the issue that we are still talking about human children in the womb.”
She said their centers have also been hearing from women who ordered abortion pills from international suppliers “without ever having a sonogram, not always exactly certain how far along she is.” They get calls from women “with four pills in front of them and say, ‘What do I take? I don’t really have instructions.’ And we, of course, say, ‘We don’t recommend you take those pills; come get real gynecological care and see how far along you are.’”
FDA guidelines state that women should not take the abortion pill mifepristone if it has been more than 70 days since their last menstrual period or if they’ve had an ectopic pregnancy, problems with adrenal glands, are currently being treated with long-term corticosteroid therapy, or have a contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD) in place.
Longbons referenced a recent study that found a 120% increase in abortions without medical supervision through pills mailed from groups like Aid Access and other international suppliers over July and August.
Youman said they hear from women taking the abortion pill who were “told by abortionists that it is as easy as taking an aspirin.” But she said, typically, women “experience pain” and “see a lot,” which is “a very traumatizing experience if women are not mentally and emotionally prepared.” These women call “mid-abortion — traumatized and seeking help, wanting a reversal, needing to go to the ER.”
Pro-Life Centers Prepared
Both Youman and Nystrom are optimistic about the months ahead as the legal landscape for abortions in the states continues to change.
“There are 3,000 pregnancy resource centers, built for decades, now ready for this moment, and it’s working,” Youman said. “There are networks in place.”
Nystrom noted that we are still in the early stages of this new landscape, and “we may still see long-term increases or decreases that aren’t apparent just a few months after Roe was overturned.” She said that, “as expected, our work is still necessary and sought out. This is good news.”
Lauretta Brown Lauretta Brown is the Register’s Washington-based staff writer.