When is telemedicine abortion provider Hey Jane, launched in January 2021, people were actually celebrating policy changes in the world of reproductive health that have made it easier to access certain types of abortions. While the pandemic created barriers for people who needed to meet doctors face-to-face, it also prompted U.S. regulators to temporarily relax the rules about telemedicine and abortion pills. Instead of physically driving to a clinic, people could now simply make an appointment with an online provider and get pills in the mail, opening the door to Hey Jane and similar services. (In December 2021, the federal government made a permanent change to the rule.) It was a rare victory for reproductive rights in America, and many red states were quick to impose restrictions to prevent telemedicine abortion providers from operating legally within their borders. Because of these measures, Hey Jane currently operates in six states: California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York and Washington. On Monday, Politician leaked draft Supreme Court opinion, later confirmed by Chief Justice John Roberts, indicating that the court voted to overturn Rowe vs. Wade, a move that could reintroduce abortion bans in many states. The court’s decision won’t be official until June, and it could change, but people like Hey Jane co-founder and CEO Kiki Friedman are already working on how to continue providing access. WIRED spoke with Friedman about Hey Jane’s post-Rowe vs. Wade world what people may not know about abortion pills and the role that telemedicine providers can play in states they cannot legally serve.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
WIRED: Could you briefly explain how Hey Jane works?
Kiki Friedman: Certainly. Therefore, right now, patients come to our website, they make an appointment, where we collect information about their medical history, possible contraindications. They can take it anytime, 24/7. Then, usually within 24 hours, one of our doctors will contact them to answer any other questions and, if medically appropriate, write them a prescription for medical abortion treatment. This medicine will arrive to them in a few days, and they will be able to take the medicine where it is most convenient for them. At any point in their service, they can communicate with us for any form of support they may need, clinical or emotional. And we also offer an online community for patients to connect with each other if they want to. This is the first time that confirmed abortion patients can connect by going through the same thing at the same time online.
In July 2020, a federal judge allowed pregnant women to receive abortion medication without having to see a doctor in real life. It seemed that the moment had come when access to abortion could expand a little. Now we are in a completely different moment. How AJ prepares for a likely overthrow Rowe vs. Wade?
I should start by saying rollover Caviar it would be an incredible attack on personal freedom and justice. This only strengthened our resolve to fight for access to high quality abortions for all. We see that telemedicine has a special role, and an important role if the Supreme Court overrules Caviar. We now live in six states, and we have chosen these states partly to reach as many patients as possible, but also to act as strategic anchor states. In post-Caviar All over the world, people may have to cross state lines to get medical care. In many cases, the telemedicine model will shorten the distance they need to travel. I think, especially as demand grows in these states, there is data that says that California is likely to experience a 3,000 percent increase in the number of patients having abortions after…Caviarand in Illinois, 8,000 percent—simply being able to provide an additional source of care for patients in addition to in-person clinics will remain critical.
Expanding on the topic of anchor states, how does it work from a logistical point of view?
Therefore, people need to be able during the consultation and to receive the medication. But this will allow them to get it in a more convenient location if there are no clinics near the border. And in many cases, this will allow them to get help sooner if clinics increase waiting times due to increased demand.
Have you already seen people do this, go to the border and stay with a friend or maybe Airbnb and then use telehealth?
Yes, we have.
I have read that you are partnering with local abortion providers in various states to prepare for further abortion restrictions. Can you tell me about it?
That’s why we partner with some really big abortion funds to offer financial help to patients who can’t afford the full cost of treatment. Our price is now $249, which is generally less than the national average of $550. But, of course, in many cases this is still burdensome, especially if patients cannot access insurance. Thus, abortion funds and practical support organizations will also play a critical role in supporting people who need to travel to access health care.
Are there any specific abortion funds that you think people should be aware of?
I don’t want to play favorites, but National Network of Abortion Funds is a great resource that covers funds across the country.
Do you have any advice for people who need an abortion but live in states that you are unable to serve?
What was the audience’s reaction to “Hey Jane”? Any problems with anti-choice protesters?
It was very positive, which I think reflects the mood of the people. Most people do believe that abortion is medical care and are indeed actively supportive of efforts to increase access.
Are there any misconceptions about abortion pills that you would like to clear up?
I think the most important thing is that not many people know about the abortion pill. We’ve seen some data that only one in five people even knows it exists as an option. So instead of parsing misconceptions, I’ll just go over some really important facts know. It’s incredibly safe. It was in the USA FDA approved since 2000. There is low frequency of adverse reactions, 0.1 percent, which is lower than many common drugs. There is now a ton of data to support that it is just as safe when delivered via telehealth. It is very effective, with data showing it is up to 98 percent effective in terminating unwanted pregnancies up to 10 weeks. And it’s very common. Now more than 50 percent Abortions in the US are done with medication.
What are your biggest fears at the moment?
It is simply a reality that there will be millions of people who will not be able to access the health care they really need. And there are so many secondary effects to it. It’s just… it’s hard to put into words.
What would you say to someone who is against abortion?
One in four women with a uterus will have an abortion in their lifetime, including many people who say they oppose abortion. We do see patients from different political backgrounds and ultimately just believe that abortion care is healthcare. We think patients know best what is best for them and their lives.
Are you hopeful for the future of reproductive rights in the US?
The reality is that the rollover Caviar, like many of the extremely violent bans that have already been put in place, will be really devastating for pregnant women, especially black and brown people, low-income people and young people. But I do think that the key difference that people should remember is that, in contrast to pre-Caviar era, we now have safe and effective tools to put power back in the hands of the people, and technologies to help people get that help. This is not to say that it is not a very heavy burden, but it gives me some hope.
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