This exploratory study aimed to assess COVID-19-related changes in abortion service availability and use in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
Data came from a convenience sample of eight abortion clinics in this region. We implemented a cross-sectional survey and collected retrospective aggregate monthly abortion data overall and by facility type, abortion type, and patient characteristics for March 2019–August 2020. We evaluated changes in the distribution of the total number of patients for March–August in 2019 compared to March–August 2020. We also conducted segmented regression analyses and produced scatter plots of monthly abortion patients overall and by facility type, abortion type, and patient characteristics, with separate fitted regression lines from the segmented regression models for the pre- and during-COVID-19 periods.
Five clinics reported a reduced number of appointments early in the pandemic while four reported increased call volume. There were declines in the monthly abortion trend at hospital-based clinics at the outset of the pandemic. Monthly number of medication abortions increased from March 2020 through August 2020 compared to pre-COVID-19 trends while instrumentation abortions 11 up to 19 weeks decreased. The share of abortions to Black individuals increased during the early phase of the pandemic, as did the monthly trend in abortions among this group. We also saw changes in payment type, with declines in patients paying out-of-pocket.
Results revealed differences in abortion services, numbers, and types during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia.