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SEXUAL HEALTH

The Rise of TelAbortion

by RYN PFEUFFER
Published: DECEMBER 3, 2021
Telabortion - using abortion pills after consulting a doctor online - is one way people can meet their safe, affordable and accessible health care needs. 

According to the American Journal of Public Health, about one in four (24%) women will have an abortion by age 45. Of course, pregnancy doesn't only affect people who identify as women. Trans masc and enby people can also get pregnant, although they are often left out of the conversation when abortion and reproductive rights are addressed.


For anyone who needs it, a new path to end pregnancy has emerged when in-person abortion services are inaccessible: direct-to-patient medication abortion, aka medically supported telehealth abortion care. It allows patients to take pills to have a medical abortion at home without finding childcare, taking time off work, or traveling long distances.

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Melissa Grant, COO of carafem, the leader in client-centered medically supported telehealth abortion care, says that advances in telemedicine have improved the way many people can connect to abortion care at the right time and place.

“While abortion access has been declining in the US, especially in the Southern and Midwestern states, telehealth has offered a bridge allowing people to have an abortion with pills, which helps to improve access and affordability,” notes Grant. (Medication abortion accounted for 39% of all abortions in 2017.)

"Telehealth has offered a bridge allowing people to have an abortion with pills, which helps to improve access and affordability."

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She continues, “By offering the option to meet with a medical professional online, ask questions, receive abortion pills delivered discreetly to your home, all while receiving ongoing 24/7 personalized medical support, is one way providers like carafem are working to increase access to abortion care.”


Grant says that physicians and medical specialists across all fields have realized that to ensure better health outcomes, they need to provide care that is respectful of and responsive to a patient’s preferences, needs, and values. This approach to personalized medicine recognizes that no two patients will encounter the health care system precisely the same way. This is especially true when talking about abortion, an essential yet stigmatized part of vulva havers’ healthcare.

Read: Why We All Need Sex Ed - Even Adults!


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“This stigma negatively impacts communities, providers, and clients and can act as a barrier to accessing accurate information,” says Grant. “Because abortion can be hard to talk about, clinicians must center the individual in every aspect of abortion care service delivery. Client-centered care empowers clients, promotes autonomy, and respects the choices, decisions, and feelings of each and every client.”
“Because abortion can be hard to talk about, clinicians must center the individual in every aspect of abortion care service delivery."
The importance of patients having access to comprehensive sex education and safe, convenient, and quality abortion care cannot be stressed enough. However, because abortion remains highly stigmatized, it can be challenging to find accurate information. carafem focuses on real talk – “being very open, straightforward, and understandable when providing information about sex and health care,” describes Grant. “Increasing access to abortion care is carafem’s mission because we believe all people should be able to choose if and when they have children. Legal abortion means nothing without access.”


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"We believe all people should be able to choose if and when they have children. Legal abortion means nothing without access.”
As abortion providers across the U.S. brace for the upcoming Supreme Court case decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi law that prohibited abortion after 15 weeks, any person with the capacity to get pregnant should familiarize themselves about telehealth abortion care.


If the court sides with Mississippi, its decision could overturn existing abortion rights set by the landmark Roe v. Wade case. Abortion care, whether it’s performed medically or surgically, needs to be safe, accessible, and affordable. Telehealth abortion care is the future of abortion.


Read: A Vulva Might Be the Superhero the World Needs Right Now

So you can better understand the basics of telehealth abortion care, Grant has shared a helpful glossary of terms:

The Abortion Pill AKA Medication Abortion is actually a combination of what is usually two kinds of pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) that are taken in sequence. In the U.S., these are most often used before 11 weeks of pregnancy. The first pill, mifepristone, blocks a hormone necessary for a pregnancy to continue to develop. The second pill, misoprostol, causes cramping and bleeding from the vagina that ends the pregnancy (similar to a miscarriage).

Self-Managed Abortion is putting the process of having an abortion back in the hands of the person who wants to have one, often outside of a medical setting. This is most commonly done using the abortion pill.

TelAbortion is another term for using telehealth, phone calls, or video visits to have an at-home abortion with pills.

Procedural/Surgical Abortion is an abortion typically performed inside a health center using gentle vacuum aspiration to remove the contents of the uterus.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) is the idea that people should be in control of their own bodies, have access to medically accurate information, and be able to decide if and when they have children.

Abortion Justice or Reproductive Justice is the idea that everyone has a human right to maintain bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and to parent children in safe and sustainable communities. It goes beyond just the right to abortion. It is a framework created by a group of black women who came together after realizing they needed to lead a national movement that uplifted the most marginalized in our society; black women, women of color, and trans people.

Radically-Accessible Abortion Care is a big part of carafem’s mission; to provide abortion care in a way that respects the individual needs of anyone requesting services, including when, where, and how they prefer it, all at a price they can afford.

Conclusion

All people need access to the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including comprehensive sex education, prenatal care, contraception, and abortion care. carafem is working to increase ways to access their services both in their health centers and online.

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Photo for Ryn Pfeuffer
Ryn Pfeuffer

Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets including Marie Claire, Playboy, Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, WIRED, and Thrillist.

She adopted a pseudonym and was AVN’s (Adult Video Network) first female porn reviewer – while penning children’s books at the same time. More recently, she is the author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating (2019). She lives in Seattle with her rescue dog, Mimi. You can find her on Twitter @rynpfeuffer or IG @ryn_says


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