Columbus — The Ohio House passed Senate Bill 260, to prohibit physicians from using telemedicine options to prescribe abortion medication to patients. Banning telemedicine options would force patients to make a second trip to an abortion clinic outside their community instead of a local health center.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said: “Ohioans are struggling to safely access the health care that we need. Low-income people, people of color, young people, immigrants, and folks living in rural communities are disproportionally impacted. It is disgraceful that the Ohio Legislature is moving to ban the use of telemedicine for medication abortion care. They know this ban, heaped on top of other obstacles they have created, will make it impossible for many to get the care they need. Telemedicine is a critically important way to connect doctors and their patients. At every turn and in every way, the GOP majority in the Ohio House and Senate has shown their utter contempt for the health and wellbeing of Ohioans. There is no medical reason to deny Ohioans access to medication abortion via telemedicine; Governor DeWine should veto this bill.”

Additional background

Current Ohio law: Under current Ohio law, patients must make two visits to abortion providers, separated by a 24 hour waiting period. The first for a legislatively mandated ultrasound and counseling appointment, the second for the procedure or for the dispensing of the medication for a medication abortion. The legal requirement that a patient must return for a second visit instead of the procedure or medication dispensing during the first appointment, and the waiting period in between them, is entirely a politically motivated tactic by Republican legislators to complicate the process, add expense, and travel burdens for patients. Many states do not require a patient to return a second visit, and allow for everything to happen at one appointment.

Telemedicine option: For medication abortion it is not medically necessary for the doctor and patient to be physically in the same location for the second visit, some abortion providers use telemedicine for the second appointment. While the physician is located at an abortion clinic, the patient is able to go to another health center closer to their home. There, they are in the presence of health care professionals and have a video conference with the prescribing physician. After the physician prescribes the abortion medication, the patient takes the pill and goes home. If the patient has a rare complication, they are able to return to the health center, travel to the abortion clinic, or go to a local hospital for follow up care, the same way a patient would if they were face to face with the physician in the same room when they took the medication.

Abortion is safe: This is a very safe manner of administering medication abortion and has a lower complication rate than when patients take common over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol.

Increasing barriers to abortion: Senate Bill 260 bans the use of telemedicine, and would force the patient to make two full trips to the abortion clinic. This increases travel costs for the patient, requires a second day of child care or time off from work, and it complicates scheduling for abortion clinics.

Pandemic: During the pandemic, it also unnecessarily requires additional transportation for the patient and also requires additional patients to enter common waiting areas when they could visit less crowded health centers in their communities.

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