Republican senators are trying to ban one of the safest kinds of abortion


They admit it's about their politics, not women's safety.

A group of conservative senators is leading an effort to ban medication abortions performed via telemedicine nationwide, even as numerous studies have shown they are very safe and in some cases the only option for care.

When telemedicine is used for abortion care, a patient who chooses a medication abortion is connected to a clinician remotely via video. That clinician reviews the patient's records, is available to answer questions, and authorizes the medication to be given to the patient. 

A proposed bill, led by Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, would require health care providers to be "physically present" for any medication abortion. Failure to do so can result in a fine and imprisonment. 

Cassidy describes banning this procedure as somehow helping to "care for mothers" but didn't clarify how blocking abortion access does this.

Joining Cassidy in this effort is Louisiana's other Republican senator, John Kennedy, who declared that medication abortions "put women at astonishing risk," adding that using telemedicine will "put up even more barriers between women and critical medical care." 

But Kennedy is not telling the truth when he says that medication abortions conducted via telemedicine put people at risk. In fact, the use of telemedicine for medication abortions is remarkably low risk

Over a seven-year span when Planned Parenthood used telemedicine to perform over 8,000 medication abortions in Iowa, 99% of patients had a successful abortion and just 1% of patients had any adverse events, such as going to the emergency room. 

Telemedicine also helps solve the problem of "abortion deserts" — locations where people must travel more than 100 miles to obtain an abortion. A recent study found there are 27 of these deserts in the United States. 

Besides ensuring better access to care for rural people, telemedicine also results in people being able to obtain abortions as soon as they want one. One study showed that telemedicine in Iowa allowed more people to obtain abortions before 12 weeks.

"From a public-health perspective, [telemedicine] does improve access to early abortion [and] decreases later abortion, and that would result in improved health outcomes," Daniel Grossman, a doctor and reproductive health researcher who supports broad implementation of telemedicine, told the Atlantic.

Efforts to ban telemedicine exist at the state level as well. The Ohio Senate just passed a measure that would bar the procedure, despite the fact that medical abortions have been safely provided in the state via telemedicine for the last two years. 

Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin, the vice president of government affairs and public advocacy of Planned Parenthood in Ohio, argues that banning the use of telemedicine for abortions is designed to get rid of abortion access, not to increase safety for pregnant people. 

"The goal of Senate Bill 260 is not better health care for Ohioans or patient safety, its sole purpose is to push access to safe, legal abortion further out of reach and against the will of the majority of Ohioans." Blauvelt-Copelin, said.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), another sponsor of the federal bill to ban telemedicine abortion, appeared to admit the bill is not about the safety of the mother but about throwing up barriers to people seeking an abortion. 

"Killing an unborn child is wrong, and encouraging women to undergo that procedure without knowing the impact is egregious," Cramer said in a statement supporting the telemedicine ban.

In states where it is legal, telemedicine provides a safe way for people to obtain an abortion early in pregnancy, regardless of where they live.

Taking that away doesn't help anyone, but serves only to push abortions out of reach for many. 

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.