The XX Factor

Telebortions: Subverting Anti-Choicers with Technology

A statistic that’s oft-repeated in pro-choice circles is that 87 percent of counties in the United States do not have an abortion provider. What this means practically is that even though abortion is legal in this country, if you’re a poor woman who lives hours from the nearest provider, it’s nearly impossible to obtain one. However, a new service that’s available in Iowa—abortion through tele-medicine—could make access a possibility for women in the most anti-choice states. This ABC News story explains how the process works:

A woman seeking an abortion via telemedicine has an ultrasound performed by a trained technician, receives information about medical abortion and signs a standard informed consent for the abortion.

Once that is complete, a physician steps in via teleconference. The doctor reviews the woman’s medical history and ultrasound images, and once it is determined that she is eligible—up to nine weeks pregnant and not an ectopic pregnancy – she has time to ask questions.

Then, the doctor enters a computer passcode to remotely open a drawer at the clinic containing two pills. She then swallows the mifepristone, under the doctor’s supervision, and then is instructed to take four additional tablets of misoprostol within the next 24 to 48 hours. The actual abortion happens at home.

This makes life incredibly easy for patients, not just because it gives women who are far from a provider access to one, but it also allows women to avoid embattled abortion clinics where they might have to contend with furious protestors. Predictably, some of the most anti-choice states (Arizona, Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska and Tennessee, according to ABC News) have already passed laws restricting telemedical abortion. Still, for women who need abortions in provider deserts, this is fantastic news.