Maine has seen an increase in abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, according to a new study.
Experts say the jump is fueled by a number of factors, with only a small portion of the increase attributed to women coming to Maine for abortion services because the procedure is now illegal in their home country. .
The study, conducted by the Society of Family Planning Research Fund, a Denver-based nonprofit, shows the national abortion rate fell by 6% between April and August of this year. The decline coincides with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion, a decision that has so far made abortion illegal in 12 states.
Using the same months of comparison, the abortion rate in Maine increased by 18%. In states where abortion was banned, the abortion rate fell by 95% from April to August, and in states where abortion remained legal, the abortion rate increased by an average of 11% over the same period, according to the study, which was published Oct. Data for the study comes from surveys of abortion providers.
Abortion was one of the top issues motivating voters in Tuesday’s election, joining inflation among voters’ top concerns, according to numerous exit polls.
Residents of Michigan, California and Vermont enshrined the right to abortion in their state constitutions on Tuesday. An Associated Press poll of about 90,000 voters nationwide this year showed that about two-thirds of voters want abortion to be legal in most or all cases. Maine did not have an abortion measure on the ballot, but abortion rights advocates actively supported the successful effort to re-elect Governor Janet Mills, who campaigned to protect access.
Nicole Clegg, Vice President public policy chair for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said it’s unclear why abortions are increasing in Maine, but it’s not driven by residents of other states seeking services in Maine. This is happening, but these numbers are still low. Clegg said she suspects access to medical abortions, more telehealth appointments and expanding Medicaid coverage are most likely the reason abortion rates are rising in Maine.
“We’re too far apart geographically to see much impact from people coming here from states banned for abortion services,” Clegg said. About 2,000 abortions are performed in Maine each year, more than half through Planned Parenthood, which has clinics in Portland, Biddeford, Sanford and Topsham.
West Virginia – about a 12-hour drive from Maine – is the closest state where abortion is now banned. To get to Maine, a person driving from West Virginia would travel through a number of states, including the entire northeast, where abortion is legal.
Planned Parenthood clinics provide abortion services to people from banned states — about two dozen since June — but that’s mostly because those people have a connection to Maine, like having a relative who lives here, a said Clegg.
Clegg said that while the Society of Family Planning’s research is valuable, it’s more accurate to compare abortion rates by month to the same month the year before. Abortion rates tend to vary by season, with more abortions occurring in the summer and around holidays.
From the end of June – shortly after the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v Wade – As of mid-October, Planned Parenthood in Maine provided abortion services to 36% more women than during the same period in 2021. Planned Parenthood performs approximately 75 to 125 abortions per month.
Clegg said one of the biggest factors leading to rising abortion rates in Maine may be access to medical abortion for women in more rural areas. The Biden administration, in the spring of 2021, approved the distribution of abortion drugs through the mail, which Clegg said improved access for people in Maine living farther from clinics. Previously, pills could only be dispensed in person.
Coupled with more telehealth doctor appointments, Clegg said access has improved over the past year. The pandemic could also be a factor due to changes in family planning and dating trends over the past two years. An increase in pregnancies after the pandemic could mean that there are more abortions linked to complications.
Where abortions are down — mostly in the South — women with the least means and ability to travel are more likely to lose access, according to a report by the Society of Family Planning.
“The decline in abortion numbers has occurred in the same states where structural and social inequalities are greatest in terms of maternal morbidity and mortality and poverty,” the report said. “So the impact of the Dobbs decision is not evenly distributed. People of color and people working to make ends meet have been hit the hardest. »
EXPANSION OF MEDICAID ENHANCED ACCESS
In Maine, on the other hand, low-income populations have seen their access to abortion improve in recent years.
The expansion of Medicaid in Maine has made it possible for more women to have health insurance and not have to pay out of pocket for an abortion. Clegg said while the Medicaid expansion was approved in 2019, it took time for awareness to grow and for the rollout to reach most eligible people. About 95,000 more people in Maine have insurance through the Medicaid program, called MaineCare in the state.
“People can now access the care they want the way they want it. It’s huge,” Clegg said.
At Maine Family Planning, which operates an abortion clinic in Augusta, they found a year-over-year abortion rate increase of 7.5%, comparing October to September 2021-22 to the previous year.
Marisa Weil, vice president of development and community engagement for Maine Family Planning, said while access to abortion has improved in Maine, access is closed in many states. In addition to the 12 states where it is currently banned, outright abortion bans are likely in 14 other states, depending on a number of factors, including state court rulings, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
“People are suffering immensely from the action of the Supreme Court, overturning Roe and allowing this chaos to unfold across the country, pitting state governments against each other and limiting health care options for millions of people,” Weil said.