About 40% of all abortions in the United States are now performed with medication rather than surgery, which has become more common during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Abortion advocates say the epidemic has proven the real value of medical care, including the confidentiality and convenience of having abortions at home instead of in a clinic. Opponents of abortion, fearing the method will become more prevalent, in a number of Republican-led states have called for legislation to limit it, and in some cases bar suppliers from prescribing telemedicine abortion drugs.
This year, Ohio introduced a ban, accusing doctors of violating it of serious crimes. The law will take effect next week, but the judge temporarily blocked it in response to a lawsuit filed by “scheduled parents”.
Montana Gov. Greg ian Infort is expected to sign a ban on telemedicine abortions in Montana. The event’s sponsor, spokeswoman Sharon Gref, called the abortions a “wild west of the abortion industry” and said the drugs should be taken under strict medical supervision, “not part of a self-abortion clinic or hospital.”
Opponents of the ban say telemedicine abortions are safe, and outlawing them would have a disproportionate impact on villagers who travel long distances to a nearby abortion clinic.
“When we look at what the state legislature is doing, it becomes clear that there is no medical basis for these restrictions,” said Elizabeth Smith, the Center for Reproductive Rights Adviser at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They are designed only to make this incredibly safe drug available to make it more difficult to ‘cast doubt’ on patient-supplier relationships.”
Other legislation attempts to smuggle abortion pills into the mail, reduce the 10-week window in which the method is allowed, and demand that doctors tell women undergoing abortion that the process can be reversed by half, claims Critics say that science does not support it.
It is part of a wider range of contraceptive measures being debated in many countries this year, including some that would ban almost all abortions. Proponents of the bill hope that the US Supreme Court, which now has a 6-3 conservative majority, may not miss the 1973 ruling. Roe v Wade decision establishing the national right to terminate a pregnancy.
Discontinuation legislation was partly inspired by developments during the epidemic, when the Food and Drug Administration eased restrictions on abortion pills to be mailed. The demand for women to take them in person has been returned, but anti-abortion activists worry that the Biden administration will end the restrictions forever. Abortion advocacy groups are calling for the move.
Once the rules are lifted in December, Planned Parenthood in the St. Louis area will ship pills for telemedicine abortions, which are overseen by the Fervu Hayes Health Center in Illinois.
A single mother from Cairo, Illinois, more than two hours away from the clinic, chose this option. She found out she was pregnant just a few months after giving birth to her second child.
“It would not be a good situation to bring another child into the world,” said the 32-year-old, who spoke on condition that her name not be used to protect her family’s privacy.
“The fact that I could do it in the comfort of my own home was a good feeling,” he added.
To avoid a long journey, he calmed down and thanked the clinic staff, who spoke to him through the procedure.
“I did not feel alone,” he said. “I felt safe.”
Drug abortion has been available in the United States since 2000, when the FDA approved the use of mifepristone. Taken with misoprostol, it is a so-called abortion pill.
The popularity of the method has grown steadily. The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization, estimates that it accounts for about 40% of all abortions in the United States and 60% of those who are 10 weeks pregnant.
“Beyond its exceptionally safe and effective history, what makes abortion so significant is how comfortable it can be – privately,” said Megan Donova, Gutmacher’s senior policy manager. “That is why it is still subject to severe restrictions.”
South West Ohio Planned Parenthood, which includes incine, says medical abortions make up about a quarter of all abortions it provides. Only 9% of last year’s 1,558 medical abortions were performed through telemedicine, but the organization’s president, Kersha Daybel, said the option could be for economically disadvantaged women in rural areas.
Mike Gonidakis, president of the Ohio Right to Life, countered that “no woman deserves the horrific chemical abortion that can be done by a doctor who prescribes her a few hours away.” »
In Montana, where Planned Parenthood operates five of the state’s seven abortion clinics, 75% of abortions are performed with medication, a huge change from 10 years ago.
Martha Stahl, president of the Montana Planned Parenthood, says the epidemic, which is increasingly dependent on telemedicine, has led to an increase in the proportion of drug abortions.
In the vast state where rural communities live – seven Native American bookings, many women live more than five hours by car from the nearest abortion clinic. Access to telemedicine can be significant for them.
Gref, who sponsored the ban on telemedicine abortions, said the measure would allow providers to see signs of domestic abuse or sexual harassment when they personally care for patients.
However, advocates of telemedicine say patients are grateful for the convenience and privacy.
“Some have bad relationships or are victims of domestic violence,” said Christina Terriol, a Maine Family Planning Nurse who can perform abortions under state law. “Through telemedicine, they can do it without the knowledge of their partner. There is a lot of freedom from them. “
The group has health centers in the far north of Maine where women can get abortion pills and take them home under the supervision of health care companies, which are connected by phone or videoconference. It saves women three to four hours by car to the nearest Bangor abortion clinic.
Maine Family Planning is part of a small group of providers involved in an FDA-approved research program that allows women to receive abortion pills by mail after video counseling. Under the Under program, the Maine group can also send pills to women in New York and Massachusetts.
Samuels is a member of The Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service that places journalists in the local media to cover impeccable issues.