Aug 28, 2023 - News

Telehealth abortions on rise in Colorado after Dobbs decision

Data: Society of Family Planning; Note: Abortion data rounded to nearest tenth. Telehealth abortions recorded as occurring in the state where the medications were prescribed; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Colorado is a leading provider nationwide of abortions through telehealth clinics — a status that is only expected to increase in future years.

Why it matters: The future of telehealth abortions is at risk after a recent federal appeals court ruling limiting access to the abortion pill mifepristone, which may pave the way for a Supreme Court showdown.

State of play: Telehealth abortions accessed with mail-order prescriptions rose during the pandemic and continue to remain prevalent since the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

  • The increase is partially related to new restrictions in other states, local reproductive rights advocates say.

By the numbers: The share of abortions provided virtually in Colorado increased to 20% in March this year, up from 14% in April 2022, per the latest report from the Society of Family Planning.

  • The proportion of telehealth abortions in Colorado is nearly three times the national average of 7.4%.

What to watch: Advocates tell us the number is only expected to increase in coming months, since Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers cemented Colorado's status as an abortion haven with protections for local providers who provide abortion services online to clients in other states.

What they're saying: "This is the post-Dobbs universe — this is the way things are changing," said spokesperson Laura Chapin at Cobalt, a Colorado reproductive rights advocacy organization.

  • Cobalt has provided more than $41,000 in financial aid to nearly 300 women seeking telehealth abortions from January through June, the organization reported.

How it works: About two dozen states allow medication abortions through telehealth physicians, according to Plan C, an advocacy organization.

  • The options vary by provider and state law, but most people opt for completing online forms and receiving approval without an in-person or virtual appointment.
  • Most medication abortions occur within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, though some providers work with patients up to 13 weeks. The cost also varies and starts at about $150, per Plan C.

Of note: Colorado is one of five states that approved shield laws to protect physicians, allowing people in states that restrict access to still seek care.

  • "This is just such a convenient option for people. It's very private and confidential, and it really gives you the opportunity to control what happens during your abortion," Plan C co-director Elisa Wells told Axios Denver.

What's next: Even though the federal appeals court affirmed certain restrictions on mifepristone, they won't take effect in accordance with a Supreme Court stay.

  • However, should the Supreme Court allow the ruling to stand, or opt not to take up an appeal, access to medication abortion could become more restricted.
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