US Google searches for abortion medication rose after the SCOTUS draft leaked, a new study shows.
Searches were higher in states with more restriction on reproductive rights, according to the study.
There have already been indications that people will go online for support if abortion is banned.
A record number of US internet users searched on Google for abortion medication after a SCOTUS draft for overturning Roe v. Wade leaked in early May, according to a new study.
The report, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine medical journal, analyzed US Google searches that included the phrase "abortion pill" or referenced mifeprex/mifepristone and misoprostol/cytotec, drugs that are often used in tandem to terminate a pregnancy.
The researchers tracked the search queries since Google began collecting data in 2004 through May 2022, and found the period around when Politico leaked the SCOTUS draft was the busiest ever for people searching for abortion medication, with over 350,000 queries in the US in the first week of May.
The study also found search amounts were higher in states with tougher restrictions on reproductive rights. Nebraska, which the researchers gave an "F" rating for reproductive rights using the Institute for Women's Policy Research's index system, had the most Google searches for abortion medication. States with trigger laws targeting abortion rights — which would ban abortions immediately or soon after the federal law was overturned — including Kentucky, Missouri, and South Dakota were also high on the list for searches.
The Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last week will make it significantly harder for some people to obtain the abortion pills, which was how more than 50% of Americans ended their pregnancies in 2020, according to the reproductive rights organization Guttmacher Institute.
The legal circumstances surrounding banning the medication Mifepristone, which the FDA approved as safe and effective for abortion in 2000, is unclear. Attorney General Merrick Garland released a statement after the Supreme Court ruling saying states cannot prohibit Mifepristone "based on disagreement with the FDA's expert judgment about its safety and efficacy."
Dr. Adam Poliak, the study's first author and the Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Bryn Mawr College, wrote in the press release that the larger amount of abortion medication searches in restrictive states may appear to show that "women may be attempting to stockpile medication or hazardous black-market options in anticipation of curtailed access."
There are already signs that people will turn to the internet or find quieter ways to acquire abortion medication if they can't get it legally prescribed. The number of online orders for abortion medication rose after Texas banned abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy in May, according to Bloomberg Law.
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