Women’s Health Protection Act passes in US House of Representatives
On 24 September 2021, the US House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act (HR 3755), a bill to safeguard abortion access nationwide. If it becomes law, it will pre-empt many of the restrictive laws that have been passed by Republicans at state level and would prevent new such bills from being passed, as it is a federal bill. However, the likelihood that it will pass in the US Senate is not considered high because all the Democratic Senators and at least 10 Republicans would need to vote for it.
The bill states that healthcare providers have a statutory right to provide, and patients have a right to receive, abortion services without the kind of limitations that states and opponents of abortion have sought to impose. It would essentially codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right to abortion before 24 weeks.
The bill’s sponsors and co-sponsors included Representatives Judy Chu (Democrat (D) -CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) who championed reproductive health, rights and justice for all, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for bringing the bill to the House floor.
SOURCES: Reuters.com, by David Morgan, Richard Cowan, 25 September 2021 ; Press release, Catholics for Choice, 24 September 2021 ; Washington Post, 24 September 2021
Online purchase of abortion pills surges among Texans
Providers have seen a surge in interest in online purchases of abortion pills since the state’s near-total ban went into effect. “It was almost like an online shopping experience with a customer service representative. I personally would say it was maybe even easier than having to go to an actual clinic,” reported one. This alternative is more accessible for those who cannot afford the time or money to travel out of state. Plan C, an organization that provides information about how to order abortion pills online and advice about avoiding legal trouble, says traffic on its website has skyrocketed.
The Netherlands-based Aid Access, the only physician-run service that provides those seeking self-managed abortions in U.S. with pills, is one of the most popular providers. The service doesn’t involve video or phone consultations or require ultrasounds that are otherwise mandated by some states. Instead, it uses electronic forms that ask patients about the first day of their last period and any potential bleeding disorders. If patients live in one of about 20 states where it’s legal to obtain abortion pills through telemedicine services, they receive a prescription from a US-based provider who works for Aid Access that they fill through a mail-order pharmacy. Those who live in restrictive states like Texas can still get the pills from the organization, which are ordered and shipped from India. Aid Access, which launched in 2018, received more than 57,500 requests in its first two years of service in the US.
SOURCE: NBC News, by Rebecca Shabad, 25 September 2021
Oklahoma City and Shreveport abortion clinics filled with Texan women
“Many women are now traveling out of Texas for abortions. At Trust Women, one of four clinics in Oklahoma City, at least two-thirds of its scheduled patients now come from Texas. Oklahoma does not require two trips to a clinic to get an abortion in most cases, so it has been a common choice. Trust Women had 11 Texas patients in August; it has had 110 so far in September. Patients come from as far away as Galveston and Corpus Christi. Some drive through the night, in time for a morning appointment. The high demand from Texas has meant that the clinic’s schedule is full for weeks. Last week, the earliest appointments were for mid-October.
“Similarly, about half the patients at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana are now from Texas, up from about a fifth before the law. At Little Rock Family Planning Services in Arkansas, patients from Texas make up 19% of the caseload now, compared to less than 2% in August.
“As states pass more abortion restrictions, it is increasingly poor women who are hit with their effects. Half of American women who got an abortion in 2014 were living in poverty, double the proportion in 1994, when about a quarter of the women who had abortions were low-income, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
“The longer women have to wait, the more expensive the procedure becomes. Abortions at Trust Women range in cost from $650 for earlier stages to $2,350 for later stages. (Financial assistance is also available.)
“The situation in Texas may be temporary [since everyone agrees it is unconstitutional). A hearing on 1 October will give the law’s opponents another chance to convince a judge to suspend it. But in Oklahoma, there are five anti-abortion proposals, including one that requires abortion providers to be board-certified obstetricians. If it takes effect, four of the eight doctors licensed to work at Trust Women could no longer do so.
“It is believed that many women with no other options are being forced to carry their pregnancies to term.”
SOURCE (excerpts): New York Times, by Sabrina Tavernise, 26 September 2021
Gynuity Health Projects TelAbortion study will stop enrolling end of September 2021
This ground-breaking research project, designed to evaluate the use of telemedicine for providing medical abortion in the US, will stop enrolling at the end of this month. The study was launched in 2016 at a time when telemedicine abortion was a newly emerging idea with little documentation available for policymakers. In addition, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dispensing restrictions prohibited the mailing of abortion pills outside of the study setting. Five years down the line, Gynuity thinks it is the right time to move on and ask new questions. Their research has shown that this model of early medical abortion care, which allows abortion-seekers to be counselled remotely and receive the medications through the mail, is safe, efficacious and acceptable.
Their recent paper summarising the expansion of the TelAbortion study during the Covid-19 pandemic, when usage doubled, demonstrated that outcomes are comparable to in-clinic care and the service is highly effective. This paper was the primary source cited in the FDA’s decision to suspend the in-person mifepristone dispensing requirements for the duration of the pandemic. The FDA is now reviewing the full range of restrictions currently placed on mifepristone.
SOURCE: Gynuity Health Projects, E-mail, 23 September 2021