Why I Support “Over The Phone” Abortions


Today I saw this headline “Phone abortions with no face-to-face doctor consultation are now available“. My heart sank. Oh no! Are we to return to the days of DIY abortions and high rates of death, infection or long term consequences amongst women who are unable to access safe, legal abortion services?

Short answer: No. We aren’t.

I read on. The patients have access to a specialised telephone service who will provide psychological counselling via the phone, and who will provide RU486, a drug designed to enable safe abortions with minimal medical intervention. They will only provide this after the patient has had a blood test and an ultrasound in order to ensure the pregnancy is viable for this method of abortion.

Forgive me if I’m misunderstanding, but I’m pretty sure having blood tests and an ultrasound are face-to-face. I don’t believe either of these things are available via phone, and they’re certainly not available by non-medical personnel.

This “phone abortions” headline is an example of classic sensationalism and completely misrepresents what the service is designed to achieve. It is designed to achieve affordable, safe abortion services to women who are unable or unwilling to access clinical services in their area. It is designed to provide the least invasive version of an abortion possible for these women.

We’re not talking about coat-hangers in a backyard here. We’re talking about two pills. One of which is always taken at home in this procedure. No invasive procedures, no sterile environment needed.

This is an amazing advancement in this field and I strongly support it. Why?

  1. Abortions become legal, safe and available to women who may not have access to these services or may be too frightened to go somewhere to access them
  2. Access to a psychologist is provided to women prior to commencing the program, something that may not be available in regional and remote areas under normal circumstances
  3. Support is provided via phone before, during and after the procedure, enabling continuity of care
  4. The medical requirements of this procedure are met through a blood test and an ultrasound to determine how far along the pregnancy is and that it is safe to abort through this method
  5. The risk of infection or complications is drastically reduced compared with traditional methods

I’ve said before the reason I am pro-choice – I was raised by a nurse/midwife who worked in emergency when abortions were not legal, safe or available. I have access to someone who has experienced first hand the price of illegal abortions.

This program is not that.

Now if the cost could be reduced to enable people living on or below the poverty line access to these drugs I’d be a very happy Tamsin indeed.

If you would like more information about RU486 Better Health Victoria (a government initiative) has a helpful fact sheet here