A Planned Parenthood telemedicine program introduced four years ago in Iowa increased access to abortion in rural areas, but did not result in a corresponding increase in abortions statewide, an analysis indicated.
In a study published in this month's American Journal of Public Health, researchers said the abortion rate in Iowa decreased after women had access to telemedicine consults and an abortion pill, while the proportion of abortions performed for medical reasons increased from 46 percent to 54 percent.
Women living more than 50 miles from the nearest clinic offering the surgical procedure were more likely to have an abortion after the telemedicine program was introduced, according to the study abstract. At the same time, abortions for all women were more likely to occur in the first trimester.
The study looked at abortion rates in the two years before and after Planned Parenthood introduced telemedicine consults in 2008, the Des Moines Register reported.
In the telemedicine program, a nurse at a local clinic interviews the patient, followed by a videoconference consult by a doctor. If the doctor determines the patient is a candidate for the abortion pill, he or she activates a dispensary in front of the patient, according to the Register article. The patient takes the first pill in front of the doctor and the rest at home.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's telemedicine abortion program was the first in the nation, the newspaper reported.