Telemedicine for mandatory pre-abortion appointments reduces barriers to abortion care

Access to timely abortion care is critical for reproductive health. Abortion restrictions like mandatory waiting periods can delay care, interfere with the patient-provider relationship, and impose unnecessary burdens on patients. Thirty-four states require women to attend an information session (often containing medically inaccurate information) before an abortion is performed.

Utah is one of five states that require people to wait 72 hours between when they receive this information and when they obtain an abortion. There’s no evidence that this waiting period impacts people’s certainty about their decisions, but it is burdensome, especially for people who live far from an abortion provider or need to arrange childcare, transportation and time off work.

ANSIRH conducted in-depth interviews with 18 women in Utah who used telemedicine for their information visits prior to receiving an abortion. They found that these patients were highly satisfied with their experiences, including reporting that the video conference was easy to use and that the nurse conducting the session was attentive to their emotions over video. The patients noted that attending the initial session via telemedicine also reduced the costs – such as lost income, gas money, and childcare expenses – the distance they had to travel, and the time that would have been necessary for two in-person visits. Many also indicated that they liked the privacy of attending the appointment from their own homes.

Although telemedicine doesn’t eliminate all logistical and financial burdens, it substantially decreases them while maintaining a positive patience experience. States that mandate attending in-person visits for pre-abortion information sessions should adopt telemedicine as an option for patients.