Telehealth providers brace for Roe v. Wade ruling

Choix currently operates in California, Colorado and Illinois, with plans to expand into two other states by the end of July. 

“Abortion care via telehealth is [still] abortion care. So, at least in the way that Choix operates, we would not be able to provide care in states where specific trigger bans go into place or where states outright [ban] abortion care.” 

Demand for abortion services in states with less burdensome restrictions will increase. Telehealth providers are expecting an increase in patients if the law is overturned.  

“Telehealth does not work for every person,” Sheehan said. “It’s restricted in the same way abortion care is restricted, and as with all essential health services, the landscape of abortion act that needs both telehealth options and access to in person care at brick-and-mortar clinics.” 

Adam said Choix will assist abortion-seekers through partnerships. 

“People have always found ways to seek care,” Adam said. “We do hope and expect to serve those patients [in states restricting abortion care], and to work with our partners and practical support groups who can help those people travel and coordinate care.”  

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Currently telehealth providers ask patients to report where they are receiving care. Providers are not required to check IP addresses or authenticate where a patient says they’re calling from. In some states, providers could be held responsible if a patient is from a state that restricts abortions, experts say. 

Adam said such laws are “designed to make abortion providers and people like myself afraid to provide care and to make people afraid to seek care.”  

State telehealth policies vary widely 

As more states allow the public health emergencies that loosened state licensing requirements around telehealth to expire, virtual abortion providers using those temporary policies are left with few options. 

Adam said there are challenges with obtaining medical licenses in multiple states because of varying requirements. “It is a very bureaucratic and timely process,” she said. 

Dr. Julie Amaon, medical director at Just The Pill, an in-person and virtual provider of medication and procedural abortions said if Roe falls, patients will have to travel to ‘safe states’ to have telehealth appointments. Just The Pill will dispatch mobile clinics or mail medication in the four states they serve. 

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The influence of a ruling could go beyond those seeking abortion care, experts said.  

Dr. Mary Jacobson, chief medical officer at Alpha Telehealth, is worried women will be hesitant to seek other, non-abortion services, such as the morning-after pill. 

“I think it’s a huge violation of the patient-provider relationship,” Jacobson said. “I think [the ruling] adversely impacts women’s health. I’m concerned that women may be afraid just to seek any form of women’s reproductive healthcare.” 

That’s one of the reasons Sheehan and other experts believe if Roe is overturned, existing inequities in women’s health will be exacerbated. 

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