How one Illinois clinic provides abortions via telemedicine

Women from across the U.S. travel to Whole Woman's Health of Peoria in Illinois to access the clinic's telemedicine abortion services, the Chicago Tribune reports.

With 19 states banning telemedicine services for abortion and many other states only allotting women limited options for the procedure, Whole Woman's Health connects women to physicians through an iPad at its clinic to effectively administer what's known as the abortion pill.

The pill, called Mifeprex, is considered safe for women up to 10 weeks pregnant. Patients at Whole Woman's Health first have an ultrasound, lab work and an on-site counseling session. Then, while an off-site physician observes, they take the first pill. They are sent home to finish a second series of four pills — called misoprostol — with detailed instructions on their own.

Studies have shown telemedicine abortions are a safe option when the provider is in the room with the patient.

Some, though, disagree. Ann Scheidler, vice president of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League — a group that opposes abortion — thinks telemedicine abortion is particularly troubling.

"It's probably not ever a great idea to have a medical procedure without actually seeing the doctor," she told the Chicago Tribune. "We of course would like to see all abortion outlawed. So finding other ways to get women access to an abortion is something we would never support, because it's not good health care for women and it's lethal to the unborn child."

Still, the clinic has performed about 630 abortions through telemedicine since it began the service in September 2016. And, Whole Woman's Health sees patients from far-away states, like Texas and Tennessee, where they may face more barriers to receive an abortion, like lengthy waiting periods or a 24-hour gap between ultrasound and abortion appointments.

Whole Woman's Health operates eight clinics across the country. According to the organization's CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller, safe telemedicine abortions should be easily accessible.

"You've got abortion that is sort of legal on paper for all of us in the United States, but people's ability to access it in the first place — and access high-quality care — is so different depending on where you live," Ms. Miller told the Chicago Tribune. "You shouldn't have to travel hundreds of miles to a big city to get a procedure that takes five or 10 minutes."

More articles on telehealth:

GlobalMed to provide telehealth services to DOD: 3 things to know
Teladoc releases integrated mobile app after Best Doctors acquisition
FCC proposes rule to lift $400M funding cap on rural telehealth program

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