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Are Tele-Abortions the Wave of the Future? Maybe, and Yikes.

Telemedicine

If lawmakers and anti-abortion groups would back off of women's bodies, tele-abortions wouldn't become more common

It’s terrible that abortion doctors ever have to feel like their lives are in jeopardy because of the type of medicine that they practice.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that legal medical abortions can now be performed without a doctor physically present. But it’s hard not to be.

More and more doctors are opting out of performing abortions as states enact laws restricting women’s legal access to them, not to mention the threats many of them receive as a result of their type of practice.

Women in rural states are finding it increasingly difficult to find doctors to terminate their pregnancies. And now, instead of traveling long distances to have it done, they’re finding that there is another option, which is called telemedicine.

An abortion via telemedicine is when an ultrasound is performed by a trained technician on a patient, information is given about the abortion and an informed consent form is signed. Then a physician appears via teleconference to answer any questions and review the patient’s records and ultrasound images.

If the patient is nine weeks pregnant or less and the pregnancy is not ectopic, the doctor enters a computer passcode, which remotely opens a draw at the clinic. The patient receives two types of pills from the drawer — mifepristone and misoprostol — and is instructed how and when to take them over the course of a few days. The actual abortion happens at home.

Tele-abortions fit under the guidelines of what is considered legal in some, but not all states. In some states, like Iowa, about 60 percent of women terminating a pregnancy opt for a medical one instead of having it done surgically.

Abortion is one of the most common procedures undergone by women, with over 1.2 million performed in 2008.

It’s good to know that women in need of an abortion where few are provided have more options as the laws are clamping down on laws regarding our bodies, but it’s sad to me that such an important procedure is being done without a doctor present — even if it just distributing pills. But just to be clear: as long as it’s legal, I support it.

Some groups don’t support tele-abortions, of course. The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue calls the procedure “push-button” abortion, and has filed complaints against Planned Parenthood (without much success).

While I don’t disagree with Operation Rescue’s sentiment that tele-abortion “reduces health care to something like a Skype connection,” if groups like Operation Rescue would back off the laws that affect women’s bodies, then these probably wouldn’t be as necessary as they are becoming.

And while Operation Rescue probably doesn’t want to hear this, the ease of tele-abortions has not resulted in more pregnancy terminations. In fact, in states like Iowa, the number of abortions has fallen by nearly half in a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each subsequent year has shown at 10 percent decrease.

What do you think about tele-abortions? Is it good to know women still have options while some states and doctors are being restricted in what they can and can’t do, or does this seem too impersonal and detached (literally) for what can be such an emotional issue/procedure?

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