National report co-led by Prof. Alison Norris captures telehealth abortion care impact

Shield laws support access to care 

a protester holds a "my body my choice sign."

A new national report shows the number of abortions in the United States remained consistently elevated in the 18 months following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision compared to pre-Dobbs levels, even as 14 states have banned abortion completely. The report, published Tuesday, also documents how the expansion of telehealth abortion care, which made up 19% of all abortion care nationwide by December 2023, has contributed to this sustained elevated volume. 

The new data in the report details for the first time that nearly 8,000 people per month in states with bans or severe restrictions, and in states that restrict telehealth for provision of abortion care, accessed medication abortion through telehealth providers protected under shield laws from October to December 2023. Shield laws protected doctors, nurse practitioners and midwives licensed in five states with greater abortion access who prescribed and sent abortion pills to patients in states with bans or tightly restricted access to abortion, and in states with restrictions on telehealth abortion.

The data comes from the national #WeCount reporting effort and is the latest analysis of the impact of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. Ohio State College of Public Health Professor Alison Norris serves as co-chair of #WeCount, which is housed at the Society of Family Planning. She also co-leads the Ohio Policy Evaluation Network (OPEN), a research collaborative that studies the impacts of reproductive health policy in Ohio and surrounding states.

The #WeCount group documented between 87,600 and 92,640 abortions monthly between October and December 2023. Excluding the roughly 8,000 monthly abortions provided under shield laws, the monthly average of abortions in 2023 was 86,000 — still higher than the monthly average of 82,000 abortions in 2022.

Even as the total number of abortions nationally has increased, Norris said, health advocates can't lose sight of the fact that access to in-person abortion care has virtually disappeared in states where abortion is banned.

“The loss of clinic-based care — which makes up more than 80% of abortion care — is a devastating loss to access for people across wide swaths of the country,” she said. 

As noted in a recent paper from OPEN, Ohio does not permit telehealth for abortion care.

Additional key findings from the #WeCount report:

  • #WeCount estimates that more than 180,000 abortions would have likely been obtained through providers in the 15 states with total or six-week abortion bans since Dobbs had abortion not been banned.
  • The states with the greatest cumulative declines in abortion volume include Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama.
  • States with the largest cumulative increases in abortion volume over the 18 months following Dobbs included Illinois, Florida and California. Florida enacted a new law banning abortion after six weeks gestation this month.
  • While most surge states border states with abortion bans, there are also large increases in states that are geographically distant from states with abortion bans, including California, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. 
  • More than 40,000 people in states with total or 6-week bans and states with telehealth restrictions accessed medication abortion provided under shield laws from July to December 2023.

Read the full #WeCount report and review additional findings.


About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond. The College's divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy. It is ranked 29th among all colleges and programs of public health in the nation, and first in Ohio, by U.S. News and World Report. Its specialty programs are also considered among the best in the country. The MHA program is ranked 8th, the biostatistics specialty is ranked 22nd, the epidemiology specialty is ranked 25th and the health policy and management specialty is ranked 17th.