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Health execs embrace tailwinds fueling abortion access

Illustration of a woman in a hospital gown made from a one hundred dollar bill sitting on an examination bed.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

If the Dobbs decision was a spark, the midterm election results were the fuel powering an entryway into abortion care and beyond, according to a cadre of health tech CEOs and founders.

Why it matters: At a time when some states and the federal government are stripping away reproductive health rights while others choose to protect them, the leaders of private companies see their role as more important than ever, execs told Axios at HLTH.

  • "Women want control because it's being so restricted," says Lori Evans Bernstein, the CEO of virtual-first women's health startup Caraway, which she said will offer the mifepristone abortion pill next year.
  • "We definitely want to be in the business of abortion," says Carolyn Witte, the CEO of Tia, which operates a network of women's health clinics and provides medication abortion via telemedicine in New York and California.

State of play: After the Supreme Court in June reversed Roe v. Wade, in the midterm elections five states voted to protect abortion access rather than restrict it.

Context: Policy uncertainty aside, more employers are seeking to offer abortion and reproductive care, and investor support has risen for companies offering those services.

  • "All our investors backed our move into this space," says Witte, referencing Tia's decision in May to offer telemedicine abortions.
  • Last December, the FDA removed the in-person requirement to offer the mifepristone abortion pill, making it more accessible via telehealth.

Plus, a spate of recent suicides across college campuses — especially among female athletes and with several following sexual assault or rape — has inspired women's health companies to focus more on mental health.

  • "Anxiety and depression are, by a long shot, the biggest issues in our practice," Witte says.

What they're saying: Founders and CEOs tell Axios those trends have had a meaningful impact on their work — and particularly on the services they'll offer next.

  • "The health of women is inclusive of and more than our reproductive capacity," Carrot Fertility CEO Tammy Sun tells Axios. The company in September began offering menopause treatment.
  • "There’s now an overwhelming conviction that fertility is a big, big category and not niche," Sun adds.
  • "There's a power in having a collective voice," says Kate Ryder, the CEO of virtual maternal and family care company Maven Clinic, which this month raised $90 million in Series E funds.

What's next: Leaders of women-focused health tech companies want to integrate reproductive care, mental health and menopause treatment into what's widely considered standard primary care.

  • "My ultimate vision is abortion should be part of the standard of care for primary care, just like pink eye or strep," Witte says.
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