United States of America, 1st March,2016: Abortion access via telemedicine was introduced by Maine Family Planning, a US based Health Clinic chain on Monday. Under this plan pregnant women will be able to consult a physician via telemedicine on viability of abortion medication.
Telemedicine empowers the doctor to authorise the patient access to abortion inducing medication. This, in circumstance where both the patient and the clinician decide that it would be the best way to end a pregnancy.
The Maine Family planning Centre will be introducing telemedicine in 16 of its centres.
According to the health clinic chain the decision to provide abortion medication via telemedicine was taken by them based on their ‘commitment to access.’ “While abortion is legal in Maine and throughout the United States, it’s not always accessible to those with few resources, including those who live in rural communities.”
Though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has said that telemedicine leads to effective and safe medication abortions, a ban on the same has been laid in 18 states, making the presence of a clinician during the procedure, which involved taking two doses of the medication, mandatory. A similar statement was issued by ACOG last year in the face of an Iowa supreme court statement calling the ban ‘unconstitutional.’
“Medication abortion care delivered through telemedicine can be particularly beneficial to rural women, whose reproductive health needs can be underserved due to geographic limitations. Without remote access to medication abortion, more women would have to delay or even [forgo] abortion care,” ACOG stated.
According to the State’s Department of Health and Human Services, Maine has the highest proportion of residents classified as rural in the country.
Maine’s rural communities have the highest rate of poverty and suffer low incomes, making a strong case for remote medical services which otherwise they would be completely devoid of.
“Patients who would otherwise have to drive long distances to access services in Bangor, Augusta, or Portland may now be able to access care at an additional 16 Maine Family Planning centres,” Maine Family Planning stated.
Leah Coplon, Maine Family Planning’s director of abortion services, told that women in predominantly rural counties like Aroostook County and Washington County will now be able to access medication abortion care.
For those in rural communities seeking abortion care, she said, “The most significant costs, in addition to the procedure itself, include the cost of transportation, gas, sometimes an overnight [stay], child-care costs, and the cost of missing work. So if a woman can access the service 45 minutes from her house rather than having to travel three or four hours, it becomes a lot easier.”
Maine Family Planning clinics help with lab work and follow-up consultations, along with consultations via teleconference, during which clients can ask procedural questions.
“I certainly hope that this sends a message about how important it is to continue to increase access [to abortion services], and also encourages other states and providers to recognize that this is a service they can make available to their patients within their current settings,” Coplon said. “The more providers and the more states that take on providing medication abortion to their patients and recognize it as a part of basic reproductive health care, the fewer problems we’ll have with access.”