Creating Access to Abortion

As I have previously written about, one of the major obstacles in obtaining an abortion is access.  Only twelve percent of counties in the United States have abortion providers, which means that the majority of women seeking abortions have to travel outside of their area.  This can be very expensive and many women are not able to pay for transportation (not to mention that they must pay for the actual procedure).  In order to combat this, the Planned Parenthood offices in Iowa have started offering videoconferncing to patients interested in getting an abortion.

“Before the videoconference begins, a patient in a distant clinic meets (in person) with a nurse. There, blood tests, a medical history, an exam, an ultrasound and counseling on matters like what to expect from the procedure and plans for a follow-up exam are completed. The results are shared (by computer) with a doctor miles away, and the doctor and the patient (at all times accompanied by the nurse, who sits beside her) meet by videoconference over a private network” (Davey 3).  If the patient decides to go through with the procedure, she is given the appropriate dose of mifepristone, a medication used to terminate a pregnancy up to nine weeks.  As in all medical abortions, the patient takes this drug at home on the following day.This is a great step towards creating access for all women in need of abortions!  It has proven to be very safe and effective.  So far, 1500 patients have already recieved this type of videoconferencing and they have been satisfied with their experiences.  This technology is currently being used in Iowa only but abortion providers from across the country are looking at this model in hopes of applying it in other states.  I think it would be wonderful if we could take this technology and bring it to the rest of the world.  There are so many women in developing nations that do not receive sexual and reproductive healthcare because of issues with access and transportation.  It would be so amazing if we were able to take this model and apply it universally.However, there is a great deal of critique coming from anti-choice organizations, specifically Operation Rescue.  They argue that this violates the law a licensed physican must perform an abortion in the state of Iowa, but they must recognize that the physician is never present when the woman takes the second dose of mifepristone.  The doctor’s role in this situation is to ensure that the patient is in good health, counsel her, and explain the procedure.  They also argue that this strains the relationship between the doctor and patient, but there really is no difference between speaking via a computer or speaking across a desk.  Also, the patient is accompanied by a nurse at all times during the videoconferencing procedure. 

As Dr. Vanessa Cullins, the vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says, “They are not really protesting the new technology, they are protesting abortion in general.”  This model of videoconferencing in order to obtain medical procedures is already being used in many other areas of healthcare, but anti-choice advocates are only challenging videoconferencing for abortion.  Although a complaint has been filed with the Iowa Board of Medicine by anti-choice individuals, I do not believe this will get much attention. 

This new technology is a great step towards reproductive justice and I can’t wait to see it become more popular across the world.

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