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Demand for self-managed online telemedicine abortion in eight European countries during the COVID-19 pandemic: a regression discontinuity analysis.

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Starling, Jennifer E 
Gomperts, Rebecca 
Scott, James G 
Aiken, Catherine E 


OBJECTIVES: In most European countries, patients seeking medication abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic are still required to attend healthcare settings in person. We assessed whether demand for self-managed medication abortion provided by online telemedicine increased following the emergence of COVID-19. METHODS: We examined 3915 requests for self-managed abortion to online telemedicine service Women on Web (WoW) between 1 January 2019 and 1 June 2020. We used regression discontinuity to compare request rates in eight European countries before and after they implemented lockdown measures to slow COVID-19 transmission. We examined the prevalence of COVID-19 infection, the degree of government-provided economic support, the severity of lockdown travel restrictions and the medication abortion service provision model in countries with and without significant changes in requests. RESULTS: Five countries showed significant increases in requests to WoW, ranging from 28% in Northern Ireland (97 requests vs 75.8 expected requests, p=0.001) to 139% in Portugal (34 requests vs 14.2 expected requests, p<0.001). Two countries showed no significant change in requests, and one country, Great Britain, showed an 88% decrease in requests (1 request vs 8.1 expected requests, p<0.001). Among countries with significant increases in requests, abortion services are provided mainly in person in hospitals or abortion is unavailable and international travel was prohibited during lockdown. By contrast, Great Britain implemented a fully remote no-test telemedicine service. CONCLUSION: These marked changes in requests for self-managed medication abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate demand for remote models of care, which could be fulfilled by expanding access to medication abortion by telemedicine.



abortion, health policy, health services accessibility, Abortion, Induced, COVID-19, Communicable Disease Control, Female, Health Services Accessibility, Humans, Pandemics, Pregnancy, SARS-CoV-2, Telemedicine

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BMJ Sex Reprod Health

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