Reuters News Story

Posted on October 31, 2016

Abortion by prescription now rivals surgery for U.S. women

American women are ending pregnancies with medication almost as often as with surgery, marking a turning point for abortion in the United States, data reviewed by Reuters shows.

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Despite a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that abortion is a woman’s right, access varies widely by state. Some states maintain restrictions on both surgical and medication abortions; others have worked to increase access.

In rural Iowa, where clinics are few and far between, Planned Parenthood is using video conferencing, known as telemedicine, to expand access.

The way it works is, a woman is examined in her community by a trained medical professional, who checks vital signs and blood pressure and performs an ultrasound. The information is sent to an off-site doctor, who talks with the woman via video conference and authorizes the medications.

Since the telemedicine program began in Iowa in 2008, medication abortions increased to 64 percent of all pregnancy terminations, the highest U.S. rate.

In New York, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, a private research institute, Gynuity Health Projects, works with clinics to send abortion pills by mail to pre-screened women.

“Medication abortion is definitely the next frontier,” said Gloria Totten, president of the Public Leadership Institute, a nonprofit that advises advocates.

And in Maryland and Atlanta, the nonprofit organization Carafem opened centers in the last 18 months that offer birth control and medication, but not surgical, abortions. It promotes its services with ads that read: “Abortion. Yeah, we do that.”