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Expanded Access: Webcam Abortion Pill Services Researched in Iowa

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While abortion is legal in the United State gaining access to safe, affordable and quality abortion services is still one of the greatest barriers to women’s reproductive freedom and wellness.

A recent study conducted through Planned Parenthood in Iowa may break barriers and provide more access one of these services, Medical Abortion or the Abortion Pill, through the use of teleconferencing.

"Before this was set up, women had to travel as much as 200 miles to where a physician was, or the physician had to travel," Dr. Daniel Grossman, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and a researcher with Ibis. "Since there is such a shortage of abortion providers, there are real work force issues. It's hard for the provider to travel so much, and it's not the best use of her time. Telemedicine extends the reach of the physician and at the same time provides a high quality service."


Medical abortion, or The Abortion Pill, is a series of medications which can be given to women who are less then 9 weeks into a pregnancy to induce a safe, controlled miscarriage. About one quarter of all the abortions performed in the United States are administered in this fashion.


This study conducted by Ibis Reproductive Health, a California based research group promoting access to women’s healthcare services, followed 449 women in the Iowa Planned Parenthood system between November 2008 and October 2009.


Researchers found that women who teleconferenced with their doctor after having a sonogram and evaluation by medical staff had equal success completing the medical abortion process as women who met face to face with their doctors.

While this was a great convenience for women in Iowa, where there are only 3 locations in the state that have doctors able to consult and provide abortion pill services, there was one drawback. While the success and rate of complication for both face to face and teleconference patient were the same – about one quarter of women having the teleconference with the doctor reported wishing they could have meet with the doctor in person.


"Our findings suggest that it's important for women to be well-informed about what telemedicine entails, so they can decide if that's the way they would like to have the service." said Grossman.

While Teleconferencing might be missing the personal attention and comfort provided by in person consultations with the doctor it did not support the objections of anti choice groups who are lobbying to ban this service. These arguments used to outlaw abortion pill services by conference in Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and Tennessee; state that teleconferencing increases risks to women’s health because of the lack of in person contact.

Researches found that this was not the case.

Grossman, in his interview with Reuters, stated that it is important for risk and complication continue to be tracked to ensure there is no increase in problems. However, since this is already a mandatory part of prescribing of the medical abortion it should not be hard to follow.
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