The XX Factor

Abortion Counseling Via Webcam

Pro-life women may be winning primaries , but abortion remains legal, even in Iowa, where health care of any kind can be hard to come by in rural areas, and abortion providers are scarce. According to the Guttmacher Institute , in 2005, 93 percent of Iowa counties lacked a doctor willing to offer abortion services. Of all the ways we limit access to abortion, the practice of making it extremely difficult to physically get one if you live in certain parts of the country must be one of the most unfair, if for no other reason than that it applies equally to everyone: Even a hypothetical 9-year-old incest victim still has to travel miles and run gantlets. But that is what it is, and it’s not news that most doctors and most hospitals don’t provide abortions, legal or not. What usually is news are the ways states are further limiting access to abortion, but not always. Yesterday, the New York Times had a rare story on an effort to make it easier for women who need an abortion to actually get one-or at least have one prescribed.

I feel like I should whisper this, in the vain hope of stopping hundreds of protesters from descending on Ames, but some Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa offer patients the ability to speak with a doctor hundreds of miles away via Web conferencing. The doctor provides counseling, asks questions, and-in most cases, according to the Times -clicks a mouse, causing a cash-register-like drawer to open and provide the woman with two doses of the drugs that will allow her to end her pregnancy. Patients meet first with a nurse; all of the other requirements-blood tests, an ultrasound, additional counseling-are met, and thus far, no serious complications seem to have resulted from the video prescriptions.

Although 1,500 abortions have been performed this way in the state, there are no reports that the total number of abortions there has increased. The main result seems to have been an easier-and even greener-process for the women who would have traveled as far as they needed to, and as many times as they had to, to end their pregnancies. It goes without saying that this is the subject of protest and lawsuits; everything surrounding abortion is. But as long as it’s still legal, I, like Tracy Clark-Flory over at Broadsheet , want to see doctors making full use of every available avenue to provide abortions to women who make that choice. What’s safe and economically feasible for women in New Jersey shouldn’t be an insurmountable burden for women in Iowa.