Earlier this month, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Teleabortion Prevention Act of 2020. If made law, this act would make it a federal crime for healthcare providers to prescribe the chemical abortion pill without being physically present with the patient, being present during the procedure, and scheduling a follow-up visit.
Cosponsors of the bill include Senators John Kennedy (R-LA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Steve Daines (R-MT), James Lankford (R-OK), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
In a joint statement, Cassidy noted that “Louisiana requires a physician performing an abortion to have admitting rights at a local hospital. This is for the safety of the mother. Teleabortion clearly does not comply.”
“Chemical abortions already put women at astonishing risk, and mail-order abortions put up even more barriers between women and critical medical care,” said Sen. Kennedy. “If we really want to protect vulnerable women and children, we have to stop the dangerous trend of mail-order abortions.”
Troubling language and phrasing aside, according to a report from the World Health Organization Kennedy’s assertion that mail-order abortion is unsafe is incorrect. “There is no evidence that home-based medical abortion is less effective, safe, or acceptable than clinic-based medical abortion,” the report states.
Reproductive medicine experts agree. “First-trimester medication abortion with mifepristone and misoprostol is very safe,” said Daniel Grossman, a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at UCSF.
What is Teleabortion?
A telabortion (also known as a self-managed abortion) involves the same steps and procedures as a regular medical abortion, without requiring a woman to travel to an abortion clinic. With the number of accessible abortion clinics across the U.S. dwindling, this is a way of ensuring that legal medical abortions remain accessible to all women. During a teleabortion, the pregnant person receives a video evaluation over the internet and then is allowed to obtain all of the necessary tests at a medical facility near their home. The medication (either mifepristone or misoprostol) is then sent via mail.
As with all chemical abortions, a telabortion can only be provided during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, making it a viable option even in states that have implemented a “Heartbeat Bill” banning abortions after the six-week mark. Telabortions are currently only provided in limited areas and are not available to women who are taking prescription anticoagulants or steroids. Other limitations include:
- Adrenal gland problems
- Conditions that affect the ability of the blood to clot normally
- Inherited porphyria
- Allergy to mifepristone or misoprostol
- Current intrauterine device (Paragard, Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, Kyleena) users
- The patient lives more than one hour from a hospital
Currently, seven states – including Louisiana – have criminal statutes that have criminalized self-managed abortion. Should Senator Cassidy be successful in passing his bill through both the Senate and the House (an unlikely probability given the current political climate and deadlock), self-managed abortion would become illegal across the United States.
It’s likely that even should bill be signed into law, that it will face lengthy challenges in the Supreme Court. However, with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it is unlikely that the Court would vote to strike down the bill.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo News, Wander No More, Big Easy Magazine, and more. In 2019, she was given the title of “Most Fearless” by The Bayou Brief. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_