A recent study from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that supports abortion access, found that the number of abortions in 2023 has increased to the highest number and rate in the United States in over a decade.

The group announced March 19 that "new findings from the Monthly Abortion Provision Study show that an estimated 1,026,690 abortions occurred in the formal health care system in 2023, the first full calendar year after the US Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade."

Guttmacher noted that this is a "10% increase since 2020, the last year for which comprehensive estimates are available" and "is also the highest number and rate measured in the United States in over a decade."

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, told OSV News that these reported increases in abortion "in recent years, both before and now with the Dobbs decision, highlight the importance of what we in the pro-life cause have always said: that we must not only make abortion illegal, but rather it should be unthinkable."

Bishop Burbidge, who is the chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-life Activities, said the study's findings "demonstrate that there is an ongoing need for us not only to work to change laws, but also to transform hearts and to offer meaningful hope with radical solidarity with women in the face of fear."

The bishop called for pro-lifers to be "proactive" and "visible" to women seeking abortion so that they are aware of the support available to them. "In bringing this message to others, we have to show our radical solidarity so that we also transform hearts," he said.

This nationwide increase in abortion despite the procedure being banned in 14 states since Dobbs may be due, in part, to "the broader availability of telehealth for medication abortion," the Guttmacher Institute said, pointing to medication abortion via mail increasing "considerably after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted in-person dispensing requirements of mifepristone -- one of the drugs most commonly used in medication abortion -- during the pandemic."

Guttmacher also highlighted a large increase in medication abortions overall. It found that "there were approximately 642,700 medication abortions in the United States in 2023, accounting for 63% of all abortions in the formal health care system. This is an increase from 2020, when medication abortions accounted for 53% of all abortions."

Tessa Longbons Cox, senior research associate at Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of SBA Pro-life America, called this increase in medication abortions "nothing short of a tragedy."

"While Guttmacher's report doesn't count abortion drugs illegally mailed into pro-life states from other states with so-called 'shield laws,' other research suggests these account for a large share of mail-order abortions," she added. "These numbers are unfortunately not surprising given abortion advocates post-Dobbs, including Guttmacher, have not only pushed unlimited abortion, for any reason, at any point in pregnancy, but supported the removal of safeguards on abortion drugs at the expense of women's safety."

"We know from major international studies that abortion drugs pose four times the risks of surgical abortion," Cox continued, "but the abortion lobby consistently downplays these risks that undermine their narrative. Given the FDA's recent push to deregulate these drugs and not requiring an in-person visit, what we're witnessing is a new abortion landscape that prioritizes putting women's health and safety last."

Regarding the rise in abortions with the abortion pill mifepristone, Bishop Burbidge pointed out that these abortions "have been increasing since the FDA began reducing safety standards and increased their availability."

In 2016, the Obama administration loosened restrictions on mifepristone so that it could be taken later in pregnancy and with fewer doctor's visits. Under the Biden administration, the FDA altogether removed the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone in December 2021, allowing for mail order abortions by pill.

In 2023, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would allow retail pharmacies to provide the abortion pill. Prior to this, its provision was limited to certified doctors, clinics and some mail-order pharmacies.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 26 for Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, and Danco Laboratories v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, cases in which the court could require a return to stricter regulations on the abortion pill.

Bishop Burbidge highlighted a nationwide invitation to prayer that he is leading along with Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, president of the USCCB, which will begin on March 25, the eve of these oral arguments.

He called prayer in this matter "critically important," saying the abortion pill not only kills a child in the womb, but that "we've heard from women how extremely upsetting and violent and painful" the experience is and "how alone" women feel, going through this experience."

The bishop is calling the faithful to pray "to St. Joseph, Defender of Life, for the protection of women and preborn children until this decision is reached by the court."