The Scoop: TelAbortion is a research project that uses telemedicine to make it easier for women to access safe abortion services. A team of medical professionals has partnered with local clinics to deliver FDA-approved abortion medications to the doorsteps of women who qualify for the program. Since 2016, over 1,200 patients in 13 states have received care through the TelAbortion project. To qualify, women must live in the same state as a participating clinic and be able to take the first abortion pill within the first 70 days into their pregnancy.
In 2013, Texas passed sweeping restrictions on abortion clinics that caused the number of available clinics in the state to drop from 42 to 19. Progressive groups immediately began mobilizing to challenge the law on the grounds that the restrictions had no medical merit and placed undue burden on abortion access.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in a 5-3 decision that the Texas law was unconstitutional.
This landmark 2016 case was a clear victory for pro-choice groups in their ongoing battle to expand access to safe abortion services across the country.
Gynuity Health Projects plays a central role in this movement by researching and developing ways to improve reproductive and maternal health care. In 2016, this nonprofit started the TelAbortion research project to introduce telemedicine to abortion clinics.
TelAbortion partners with Planned Parenthood, Maine Family Planning, and other groups to facilitate the prescription and delivery of FDA-approved abortion pills. Women who qualify for the study have their medicine mailed directly to them.
The TelAbortion process is simple and efficient, and it allows women to look after their health needs without having to jump through a lot of unnecessary hoops.
“When we saw what was happening in Texas, we started to pursue the idea of mailing medication to women,” said Erica Chong, a Director at Gynuity Health Projects. “We started enrollment in progressive states — New York, Hawaii, and Oregon — and we’ve grown from there.”
A Nonprofit Organization Powers the Research Project
Founded in 2003, Gynuity Health Projects is a non-profit reproductive health organization with headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. The team works with women, health providers, and policymakers to develop and pursue forward-thinking health care research.
According to the organization, “Our research demonstrates that simple, safe, and effective reproductive and maternal health technologies transform lives and improve outcomes for women and girls.”
The Gynuity Health Projects team has decades of experience in the medical field and focuses on leveraging its knowledge to advocate for meaningful changes in women’s health services.
“Expanding access to abortion care has always been a goal of ours,” Erica said. “That’s what the TelAbortion project is all about.”
Gynuity Health Projects employs 17 public health experts, medical doctors, and social workers to contribute to its scientific research studies, and seven of them work on TelAbortion.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, this tight-knit team transitioned to a remote work atmosphere, but the change in scenery hasn’t slowed them down one bit. In fact, Erica told us TelAbortion has never been busier.
Starting in March 2020 TelAbortion has seen a dramatic increase in enrollment. Its teleconferencing services appeal to women who have safety concerns regarding the coronavirus and don’t want to visit a clinic in person. The TelAbortion process has been a good solution to help women stay safe at home and still receive top-notch medical care.
“In some cases, you don’t even have to come in for an ultrasound,” Erica said. “We can determine if it’s safe based on the menstrual history. That has helped patients a lot.”
Patients Praise the Convenient & Stress-Free System
TelAbortion has recruited several abortion clinics across the country to participate in its program, and the team is always looking to build relationships with allies in the field and expand access to convenient abortion services.
The first step is to screen women to make sure they qualify for the service. TelAbortion can only serve pregnant women who live in certain states and have an electronic device with internet access, and they must be able to conduct web calls with medical professionals. Women must also be able to receive and take the first abortion pill before they are 70 days into their pregnancy.
The abortion clinic will either schedule an ultrasound or consult the women’s menstrual history to see if the time frame is right.
Once it’s clear the patient qualifies, she can schedule a video consultation with a clinician at a partnering site. This professional will explain how to take the abortion pill and what to expect from the TelAbortion process. The patient will sign consent forms electronically.
TelAbortion will mail the abortion medication to qualifying woman — they can send it to a home, office, or any location within participating states. The package will include instructions for when and how to take the medication.
The last step is a follow-up consult by phone or video call to make sure the abortion pill worked. Women can take an at-home pregnancy test to verify the results as well.
TelAbortion’s service has helped over 1,200 people receive the care they need when and where they need it, and many patients have praised the convenience, privacy, and efficiency of its process.
Over the years, TelAbortion has received thank-you notes and testimonials from women from all walks of life. The service is flexible to any schedule and lifestyle. Busy professionals can schedule a video consultation during their lunch breaks and never have to leave the office. Single moms can take a call while keeping an eye on their children at home.
“TelAbortion meets people where they’re at and makes an abortion service that fits them,” Erica said. “It’s been wonderful to see how this service can be a safe and effective way of providing this care.”
TelAbortion Has Expanded to 13 States & Continues to Grow
TelAbortion has paired passionate care providers with cutting-edge technology and created an abortion service that’s easy, safe, and effective. Its efforts have shown that women do not need to physically enter an abortion clinic to get the treatment and medicine they need.
Gynuity Health Projects is working within the confines of the law to make sure women know their options and have a choice when it comes to family planning. Looking to the future, the team expects to bring TelAbortion into more states and make it more widely available to the public.
“We want to change regulations around the pill to be more accessible,” Erica said. “Patients and providers like the service we provide. It’s something we hope we can extend to more people in the future.”