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Study: Black Women More Likely To Choose In-Clinic Medication Abortion Services

A recent study in JAMA Network Open revealed that Black women are more likely to seek in-clinic medication abortion services than any other race. Telehealth medicine has proven to ease access for underserved communities.

Lead author Anna Fiastro, a family medicine research scientist at UW Medicine, wrote, “The further patients are from a brick-and-mortar clinic, the more likely they are to use telehealth to access medication abortion.”

These results come after analyzing electronic medical record data from 1,241 women (ages 13-52) who visited the Cedar River Clinic system in Tacoma and Seattle, Washington, from April 2020 to January 2022.

“Due to limited in-clinic access throughout the country, telehealth medication abortion services, including online consultations and medications delivered directly to patients, can make abortion care more convenient and accessible,” said Fiastro, per Healio. “Other areas of health care have documented disparities in telehealth access, although less is known about telehealth medication abortion services.”

More specifically, 69% of study participants received in-clinic appointments for medication abortion services, and 31% sought and received medication after scheduling a telehealth visit. Younger individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and those with health conditions are also less likely to choose telehealth abortion care.

Telehealth medication “facilitates abortion care access for those further from brick-and-mortar abortion facilities and, thus, may mitigate the impacts of travel logistics and costs,” the research paper found. “Additionally, tele-MAB may better meet the needs of those with prior abortion experience, perhaps due to greater familiarity with the abortion process.”

Of the 232 study participants who self-identified as Black, over 80% had in-clinic visits, while only 46 received telehealth visits. Fiastro noted that Black women may prefer in-clinic care due to experiencing and documenting discrimination, stigma, and systemic barriers in the health care system.

In the research paper, senior author Dr. Emily Godfrey, professor of family medicine and obstetrics and gynecology, brought attention to younger patients’ wariness of “telehealth’s legitimacy and whether getting care this way really works.”

To increase telehealth use among patients, further research suggests that it is necessary to better understand patients who identify as multiracial or of other races and how identity affects their telehealth experience. The focus should be on finding ways to serve patients in rural areas and other underserved communities.

Black women are disproportionately affected by the lack of abortion access and are overrepresented in pregnancy-related deaths.

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