The Coronavirus Is Making the Case for Abortion Via Telemedicine

Telemedicine—in which doctors administer medication via webcam and a remotely-controlled drawer—has become an easy target for anti-abortion legislators who try to claim it is dangerous and limits physician oversight. But the coronavirus pandemic highlights precisely why access to medication abortion through telemedicine is so crucial.

And now, abortion providers and advocates are calling for states to suspend bans on telemedicine in cases of medication abortion.

There’s the obvious social distancing it allows (though states have different regulations regarding where telemedicine appointments can take place and who must be present to preside over them). But Dr. Daniel Grossman, the director of the research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, points out another key, though less readily apparent benefit: In a pandemic, hospitals in particular are forced to prioritize infected patients, which may mean abortion care gets de-prioritized, despite the time-sensitive nature of the procedure. Telemedicine allows abortion providers to bridge the gap.

In an interview, Grossman called telemedicine “the perfect solution” for women looking to terminate early pregnancies. “Unfortunately, it’s burdened by the restrictions in 18 states that completely ban telemedicine abortion care and then it’s also restricted due to the risk evaluation and mitigation strategy for mifepristone, which limits the possibility of doing direct to patient telemedicine,” Grossman said, referencing the Food and Drug Administration’s classification of mifepristone, the first of two medications taken to induce abortion, as a high-risk drug, despite its extraordinarily high safety profile.

Dr. Ghazelah Moayedi, an abortion provider in Texas, echoes this broad sentiment: “We should be moving anything we can to telemedicine right now.” Anything that requires unnecessary human contact should be suspended, she says—which also includes some of the onerous regulations surrounding abortion, including the 24-to-72-hour waiting period restrictions that require a pregnant person to attend two appointments with the same provider over some number of days.

Now is the time for states to recognize the safety of both telemedicine for abortion care, as well as medication abortion itself. Medication abortion, which is approved for patients who are up to 10 weeks pregnant, accounts for approximately 40 percent of abortion procedures and has a more than 95 percent success rate when used correctly. Serious complications occur in fewer than 0.4 percent of cases. As I reported at the time, a 2017 study found that telemedicine for abortion care is just as safe as in-person visits; it also increased access to medication abortion for rural pregnant people in Iowa, which meant fewer abortions later in pregnancy.

Still, telemedicine bans in abortion care are often justified with claims that it’s not safe. Unfortunately, following the lead of the 18 states Grossman referenced, Ohio is currently considering its own ban on telemedicine abortion care. 

Meanwhile, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott lifted restrictions on telemedicine in the state over the weekend—but the rule does not apply to abortion care. 

WE'LL BE BLUNT.

We have a considerable $390,000 gap in our online fundraising budget that we have to close by June 30. There is no wiggle room, we've already cut everything we can, and we urgently need more readers to pitch in—especially from this specific blurb you're reading right now.

We'll also be quite transparent and level-headed with you about this.

In "News Never Pays," our fearless CEO, Monika Bauerlein, connects the dots on several concerning media trends that, taken together, expose the fallacy behind the tragic state of journalism right now: That the marketplace will take care of providing the free and independent press citizens in a democracy need, and the Next New Thing to invest millions in will fix the problem. Bottom line: Journalism that serves the people needs the support of the people. That's the Next New Thing.

And it's what MoJo and our community of readers have been doing for 47 years now.

But staying afloat is harder than ever.

In "This Is Not a Crisis. It's The New Normal," we explain, as matter-of-factly as we can, what exactly our finances look like, why this moment is particularly urgent, and how we can best communicate that without screaming OMG PLEASE HELP over and over. We also touch on our history and how our nonprofit model makes Mother Jones different than most of the news out there: Letting us go deep, focus on underreported beats, and bring unique perspectives to the day's news.

You're here for reporting like that, not fundraising, but one cannot exist without the other, and it's vitally important that we hit our intimidating $390,000 number in online donations by June 30.

And we hope you might consider pitching in before moving on to whatever it is you're about to do next. It's going to be a nail-biter, and we really need to see donations from this specific ask coming in strong if we're going to get there.

payment methods

WE'LL BE BLUNT.

We have a considerable $390,000 gap in our online fundraising budget that we have to close by June 30. There is no wiggle room, we've already cut everything we can, and we urgently need more readers to pitch in—especially from this specific blurb you're reading right now.

We'll also be quite transparent and level-headed with you about this.

In "News Never Pays," our fearless CEO, Monika Bauerlein, connects the dots on several concerning media trends that, taken together, expose the fallacy behind the tragic state of journalism right now: That the marketplace will take care of providing the free and independent press citizens in a democracy need, and the Next New Thing to invest millions in will fix the problem. Bottom line: Journalism that serves the people needs the support of the people. That's the Next New Thing.

And it's what MoJo and our community of readers have been doing for 47 years now.

But staying afloat is harder than ever.

In "This Is Not a Crisis. It's The New Normal," we explain, as matter-of-factly as we can, what exactly our finances look like, why this moment is particularly urgent, and how we can best communicate that without screaming OMG PLEASE HELP over and over. We also touch on our history and how our nonprofit model makes Mother Jones different than most of the news out there: Letting us go deep, focus on underreported beats, and bring unique perspectives to the day's news.

You're here for reporting like that, not fundraising, but one cannot exist without the other, and it's vitally important that we hit our intimidating $390,000 number in online donations by June 30.

And we hope you might consider pitching in before moving on to whatever it is you're about to do next. It's going to be a nail-biter, and we really need to see donations from this specific ask coming in strong if we're going to get there.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate