During the pandemic, many areas of medicine and healthcare have moved online. Abortion is one of them, since many clinics have closed their doors, and women seeking abortion need to procure medications through telemedicine.
However, since many states do not allow doctors to prescribe abortion pills, there are plenty of obstacles in the way.
According to NPR, the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, said 18 states prohibit doctors from prescribing abortion pills remotely. In areas where the practice is legal, physicians said they are hearing from more women seeking abortions that way.
Dr. Meera Shah, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, outside of New York City, said she has seen an increase in telehealth for all types of reproductive care, including abortion for patients in the early stages of pregnancy, says NPR.
However, under federal law, even in in states where online abortion is legal, there are restrictions in place before women can obtain mifepristone, commonly known as the "abortion pill."
In a separate story by NPR, experts said the drug has been heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration since it was approved for medical abortions in 2000. In Canada, the drug can be dispensed at a pharmacy, but in the U.S., medical centers and clinics that provide abortions tend to be the places where doctors can prescribe it.
Dr. Christina Francis, with the anti-abortion rights group the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told NPR said she supported the strict control of the pills. She said, if a woman wants to have a medication abortion, she needed to check with her doctor to confirm the procedure is appropriate.
Ms. Magazine said American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists along with seven other medical organizations declared that abortions are "time-sensitive, essential healthcare" and lack of access might "profoundly impact a person's life, health, and well-being."
There are two types of pills approved by the FDA for use in during the first 10 weeks of gestation:
- mifepristone, which interrupts the flow of progesterone that sustains the pregnancy.
- misoprostol, which causes contractions.
The Guttmacher Institute stated medication abortions account for 40% of all recorded abortions, but said the actual rate might be higher because of the growing number of people who are self-managing their abortions, according to Ms. Magazine. Studies have shown this method is safe and effective.
Experts said, instead of restricting abortion, we should be expanding access to telemedicine abortion, according to Ms. Magazine.
"During the pandemic, it would be possible to provide medication abortion through 11 weeks of pregnancy without an in-person visit and by mailing pills to a patient," said Dr. Daniel Grossman, an OB/GYN, abortion provider, and director of the University of California, San Francisco's advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health. "This would reduce the patient and clinician's risk of acquiring the virus and not a single piece of PPE (personal protective equipment) would be used."
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