Last week, in several newsletters we called for a rational health policy on abortion and the provision of abortion pills via telemedicine. But telemedicine is the technology. We should also be talking about the aim of self-managed abortion using telemedicine. The article by Kelly Blanchard & Thoai D Ngo above puts this into perspective, and posits the “ideal”. The blog by Mara Clarke situates the crucial reasons for this demand in a world where emergency health care is stretched beyond its limit.
Telemedicine is a relatively new use of existing technology, whether with computers, mobile phones, and/or programmes like Skype, Zoom and FaceTime. It’s highly relevant for provision of medical abortion pills as a routine gynaecological service for first trimester of abortion. It’s also relevant for provision of contraception that can be obtained from a pharmacy, routine antenatal care, initial consultation and management of sexually transmitted infections, and for discussing non-life-threatening symptoms of illness with a community nurse or GP, get advice on how to self-isolate if you think you have Covid-19, and of course for renewal of prescriptions of all kinds. And probably much more apart from SRH services.
The Tabbot Foundation, a telemedicine abortion service in almost all Australian states up to 2019, provided approximately 6,000 early medical abortions via telephone between 2015 and 2019 before they had to close down due to bureaucratic barriers and costs. (SEE: ‘I didn’t feel judged’: exploring women’s access to telemedicine abortion in rural Australia, by Sarah Ireland, Suzanne Belton, Frances Doran.Journal of Primary Health Care. March 2020;12(1):49-56.)