NEW YORK (PIX11) — On Monday, New York City became the first city in the country to offer telehealth abortion services through its public health system, NYC Health + Hospitals.
Telehealth has been hailed as a means of making health care more equitable by offering care to more people. Anyone physically in New York City – not only residents – has access to telehealth abortion services.
“This initiative is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Dr. Linda Prine of the Abortion Coalition for Telemedicine.
Health care providers will offer counseling and assessments via phone or video and can then refer in-person care or prescribe abortion medication that arrives in the mail in just a few days.
“You don’t have to travel,” said Dr. Prine. “You don’t necessarily have to take time off work. And for abortion, we know it’s safe to do it by telemedicine. That’s been shown for years.”
Abortion doula and advocate Niharika Rao said telehealth allows her patients to avoid harassment at city clinics.
“We’re literally seeing anti-abortion groups flying in from the South to harass patients at New York clinics,” said Rao.
The new Health + Hospitals service is open to New York City residents and anyone who says they are physically in New York City when they call.
“When we speak with a patient, we ask where they are,” said Dr. Marisa Nadas of NYC H+H. “We ask them to attest to their location. And then, if we’re prescribing them medication, we also elicit their address and verify that address with them.”
The verification, however, largely relies on the patient telling the truth.
“We make care decisions based on what patients tell us,” said Nadas. “If patients don’t give us accurate information, we are not the experts on them. They are.”
Pro-life organization Americans United for Life believes all abortions are dangerous and that not verifying information with a physical exam exacerbates the harm.
“Women cannot be properly screen for coercive abuse or domestic abuse,” said Danielle Pimentel of AUL. “They can’t ensure they don’t have an ectopic pregnancy or can’t ensure even afterward that a woman has completed the chemical abortion.”