The FDA allows the TelAbortion program by special arrangement, as part of a research study. After women consult with the program's personnel, they are mailed pills and undergo follow-up appointments.
The program has expanded from five states to 13 in the last year, the New York Times reports. Besides Illinois and Maryland, the project is active in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Washington.
TelAbortion is now "working to expand to as many states as possible," Dr. Elizabeth Raymond, senior associate at Gynuity Health Products, told the New York Times.
Raymond said that TelAbortion had mailed 841 packages containing abortion pills and confirmed that, as of April 22, 611 abortions had been completed. Another 216 women were either following up or have not contacted TelAbortion about the outcome.
Of the completed abortions, TelAbortion said aspiration was performed to finish the abortion in 26 cases.
Of the women who completed abortions, 46 went to emergency rooms or urgent care centers. Three were hospitalized and successfully treated: two for excessive bleeding and another for a seizure after an aspiration, Raymond said. Fifteen of these women did not need medical treatment. Raymond told the New York Times the issues were just as likely to arise had the women been required to have an in-person consultation.
Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, emphasized a concern for safety.
"Despite guidelines put forth by the FDA to regulate the sale and use of abortion pills, groups like TelAbortion continue to prey on girls as young as 10 years old with complete disregard for their safety," Quigley told CNA April 29.
Gynuity, the sponsor of the TelAbortion project, has strong links to the abortion industry and influential global NGOs. Its co-founder and president, Beverly Winikoff, is a former assistant director for health services at the Rockefeller Foundation, a major backer of legal abortion. For 25 years, she was director for reproductive health and a senior medical associate at the Population Council.
Under President Donald Trump, the FDA has still allowed TelAbortion to operate. Some lawmakers have sought to change this.
The proposed Teleabortion Prevention Act would make it a federal offense for healthcare providers to perform a chemical abortion without performing a physical examination first. They would have to be present during the procedure and schedule a follow-up visit.
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The legislation is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is a medical doctor. It has 10 co-sponsors, all Republicans.
"Performing an abortion without the presence of a health care provider puts the lives of both the mother and unborn child in serious danger. Chemical abortions present serious risks, and health care providers need to be responsible stewards of that knowledge," bill co-sponsor U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said in a February announcement.
Another co-sponsor, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said the bill would make "mail-order abortions" a federal offense.
"I firmly believe that advances in medicine should be used to save lives, not take them away," he said.