New Yorker, March 6, 2019
Sue Halpern


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[...] Telemedicine—obtaining medical services over the phone or through the Internet—is not a new phenomenon. In the U.S., it began to take off in the late nineteen-fifties, and a 2016 federal grant to increase access to health care in rural areas has made it more mainstream. Medical abortion (as distinct from surgical) relies on a drug protocol that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000. What makes TelAbortion unique is the coupling of the two technologies. It enables a woman to terminate a pregnancy in the privacy of her own home, but with medical oversight.


The TelAbortion service that Thomas hoped to use is part of a five-state trial that the reproductive-health initiative Gynuity launched, in 2016, in response to the ever-diminishing availability of abortion services in the United States. As of the end of January, two hundred and eighty-three women had received TelAbortions, a hundred and fifty-eight of them in Hawaii. The Gynuity trial, which is also available in New York, Oregon, Washington, and Maine, is not the first or the only medical-abortion protocol. More typically, women are required to visit a clinic and take the abortifacient drugs in the presence of a clinician. What makes the TelAbortion protocol so unusual is that once a woman consults with a physician, she is on her own. [...]

abortion access fda health care costs health information technology innovation pharmaceuticals public health regulation reproductive rights reproductive technologies telemedicine