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States Restrict Telemedicine Abortion Services, Despite Safety, Other Benefits

States Restrict Telemedicine Abortion Services, Despite Safety, Other Benefits

October 15, 2014 — While medication abortion can be administered safely and cost effectively via telemedicine, the method is "widely unavailable" in most of the U.S., according to The Atlantic.

Since 2010 fifteen states have implemented telemedicine abortion bans, and it was only ever offered in three states: Iowa, Minnesota and Texas. However, Texas has since banned the practice.

By contrast, the use of telemedicine in other areas of health care has expanded rapidly in recent years. Elizabeth Nash, a senior state-issues associate with the Guttmacher Institute, said, "Everyone is trying to figure out how to incorporate telemedicine and how can they use it, but in this one area, we're seeing it be restricted."

Telemedicine Abortion in Iowa, Minnesota

Telemedicine abortion remains available in Iowa and Minnesota. In Iowa, the state has attempted to prohibit it, but that ban has been challenged in court, and in Minnesota, the governor vetoed a ban that was passed by the Legislature, according to The Atlantic.

In Minnesota, patients who have used the service through Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota have reported that it enabled them to obtain an abortion at earlier stages of pregnancy and avoid a surgical abortion.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa has used telemedicine services to administer medication abortion for 6,400 women since June 2008, according to PPH spokesperson Angie Remington.

Daniel Grossman, a doctor and researcher at Ibis Reproductive Health, said, "From a public-health perspective, [telemedicine] does improve access to early abortion [and] decreases later abortion, and that would result in improved health outcomes" (Semuels, The Atlantic, 10/10).