COVID-19 Puts Medication Abortion in the Spotlight

A new Coronavirus Policy Watch post from KFF explores how state responses to limit abortion access during the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn renewed attention to the provision of medication abortion using telemedicine approaches.  Medication abortion via telemedicine is a method that can be used to safely provide women with access to abortion care while social distancing, preserving personal protective equipment, and limiting risk of exposure to coronavirus.

A new telemedicine protocol –“no-test” medication abortions– has been developed in response to COVID-19. This approach, based on studies conducted outside the US demonstrating its safety, enables many patients to safely obtain abortions without needing in-person tests or exams. This approach, along with other telemedicine protocols, however, would not be available in many states because of state laws and policies that prohibit its use.

Currently, in 23 states, providers could adopt this method to offer medication abortion because there are not laws or policies that prohibit its use. However, in other states, laws explicitly ban telemedicine abortions or make them impractical by requiring the prescribing clinician to be physically present with the patient, ultrasounds before abortions, or in-person counseling.