New York City has launched the United States’ first virtual abortion program, providing free abortion pills without the need for in-person visits for pregnant individuals who wish to terminate their pregnancies.
Response to Legal Changes
Mayor Eric Adams introduced this program in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, though it doesn’t affect New York’s abortion laws or those of other states with pre-existing protections. Adams stated that in New York City, they won’t allow right-wing groups to continue their fight against women’s reproductive rights.
The Virtual Express Care Program
The “Virtual Express Care” program, operated by the city, allows New York residents to access “abortion care” from the comfort of their homes. They can schedule telehealth appointments with doctors and counselors seven days a week from 9 AM to 9 PM. This service caters to pregnant individuals seeking medical abortions up to 10 weeks into their pregnancy. The necessary abortion pills will be shipped to their address “within a few days” during the treatment, as prescribed clinically.
The services provided through this program are either free or low-cost for most patients. Financial advisors are available to assist those without insurance through various city government programs.
Bulk Purchase Agreement
In January, Mayor Adams signed an exclusive agreement with pharmaceutical manufacturer Nixon-Shane LLC to purchase large quantities of mifepristone, a pill used in medical abortions alongside misoprostol. The goal is to “reduce threats to public health” posed by the Supreme Court’s historic decision.
The city had previously established an “Abortion Access Line” to refer callers to free or low-cost abortion providers in the five boroughs. This service also offers financial support for transportation and accommodation if needed. However, some have questioned whether this might unintentionally encourage “abortion tourism” from states where abortion procedures are illegal or hard to obtain.
New York’s Abortion Laws
New York is one of the states in the US with the strongest abortion rights laws. In 2019, a law was enacted that guarantees the right to have an abortion even after the controversial 24-week mark, considered necessary to protect the mother’s health or when the fetus is deemed non-viable. The law also allows medical professionals other than doctors to perform the procedure and removes it entirely from criminal law.
In 2020, New York had the highest abortion rate in the US, with twice as many abortions among women aged 15 to 44 compared to the national average, according to the pro-choice advocacy group Guttmacher Institute. With the increased availability of abortion pills, the percentage of women using them compared to surgical abortions has seen a significant rise, according to statistics reported by the city.
New York City’s innovative virtual abortion program aims to ensure that residents can access essential reproductive healthcare without unnecessary hurdles. This initiative reflects the city’s commitment to protecting and expanding reproductive rights in the face of changing legal landscapes.