July 2022

Potential impact of telemedicine for medication abortion policy and programming changes on abortion accessibility in the United States

Seymour JW, Thompson TA, Milechin D, Wise LA, Rudolph AE. American Journal of Public Health. July 2022. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2022.306876

To quantify the impact of telemedicine for medication abortion (TMAB) expansion or ban removal on abortion accessibility.

We included 1,091 facilities from the 2018 Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health facility database and Planned Parenthood website, among which 241 did not offer abortion as sites for TMAB expansion. Accessibility was defined as the proportion of reproductive-aged women living within a 30-, 60-, or 90-minute drive time from an abortion-providing facility. We calculated accessibility differences between three scenarios: (1) facilities offering abortion in 2018 (reference), (2) the reference scenario in addition to all facilities in states without TMAB bans (TMAB expansion), and (3) all facilities (TMAB ban removal). We also stratified by state and urban–rural status.

In 2018, 65%, 81%, and 89% of women lived within a 30-, 60-, or 90-minute drive time from an abortion-providing facility, respectively. Expansion and ban removal expanded abortion accessibility relative to the current accessibility scenario (range: 1.25–5.66 percentage points). Women in rural blocks experienced greater increases in accessibility than those in urban blocks.

TMAB program and policy changes could expand abortion accessibility to an additional 3.5 million reproductive-aged women.

Public Health Implications
Our findings can inform where to invest resources to improve abortion accessibility.