The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade has telehealth providers of abortions—regardless of how they interact with patients—bracing for widespread changes in how care is delivered.
The high court’s opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, reads in part, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” The court overturned the law by a 6-3 decision.
“If that patient is looking to go to a brick-and-mortar clinic, or they’re looking to have pills mailed to them from somewhere else, that is still an abortion,” said Jenny Sheehan, the telehealth program director of the National Abortion Federation. “[The procedure] is going to be restricted in the same way by the same laws.”
The federation, a professional organization for abortion providers, said it will do what it can to help providers understand and adapt, even though it is limited by the decision.
Regardless, the not-for-profit organization is set to launch a software platform in the coming months that will make it easier for abortion providers to offer virtual services, she said. Along with the face-to-face video capability, it will include access to consent forms and questionnaires in English and Spanish.
“These systems are time-intensive and resource heavy.” Sheehan said. “So, we got the idea that NAF could maybe devise our own telehealth platform that could work for a lot of our members, and take the burden off of members for vetting, customizing and paying for the platform.”
Sheehan said providers will be responsible for legal analysis pertaining to their own situations.
“Abortion care via telehealth is abortion care”
As state telehealth restrictions loosened significantly during the pandemic, experts say the flexibility won’t fill the void for women seeking abortion care now that the landmark case is overturned.
“Restrictions affect us all,” said Cindy Adam, co-founder and CEO of Choix, a California-based digital provider of sexual reproductive healthcare services, including abortions.
Overturning Roe v. Wade adds further complexity to the current patchwork of state laws. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, 23 states have no requirement for the number of in-person visits one needs for an abortion, while 19 require more than two. Another 19 have banned the use of telehealth for abortions.