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Blog for Choice Day 2012 – Let’s Tackle Telemedicine in Tennessee

January 22, 2012

Blog for Choice Day 2012 January 22 blogforchoice.comThe theme for this year’s Blog for Choice Day is: “What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?”

I have to confess, I’m extremely bad about helping people get elected. I will write blog posts and letters to elected officials all day long, but have not historically been very active in either donating to candidates/causes or taking actions like canvassing on their behalf. This year, taking in-person action might be even more difficult due to living car-free, but I’m alarmed enough by the apparent uptick in anti-choice legislative activity that I think I need to do better and more.

I’m also going to need to focus some of that attention more specifically at the local level. It seems somewhat easier to get the word out about national threats, and there’s a bigger pool of people who can raise objections. So many serious effects on choice happen at the state level, though. This is where waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, forced delivery of medically inaccurate warnings, and other unnecessary restrictions happen.

In my own state of Tennessee, a bills is in a subcommittee to require any abortions past “viability” to occur in a hospital. There’s also a bill to move up the effective date of a law that would forbid the use of telemedicine for abortion. An obvious question is “how do you do surgery without your hands on a patient?” The answer is that this is already being researched and done for other surgeries.

But what we’re really talking about for abortion right now is something more like having a videoconference, with a patient who is getting a medication abortion, and using that technology to talk to them about their wishes and consent, how to properly take the medicine, and any potential complications to watch out for. It’s something a doctor or nurse practitioner can do from any connected location, potentially having other nurses, medical students, etc. do any needed vital sign checking and form-signing in person. It’s something that’s considered very safe.

It’s something that could really help women in rural/remote locations, and across states with few abortion providers, by increasing the geographic range a provider might be able to reach. In some states, a single provider has been known to fly in from out of state one day a week; telemedicine could seriously relieve this logistical problem and relieve provider shortages for the cases in which medication abortion is appropriate and desired.

And the state legislature is the place to prevent it, if you don’t want providers using new technologies to provide women with increased access to legal medical care.

The bill to forbid telemedicine for abortion in Tennessee passed last year. I pay attention to these things, and I’m pretty sure I missed it. And now they’re trying to make it take effect this year instead of next year.

They’re making it illegal for your physician, if he or she thinks it’s appropriate, to advise you on taking a pill via a videoconference. Where you can talk to and see one another, and your provider can use her/his judgment about your care while talking with you. And it’s only abortion that is being targeted; nobody is trying to forbid providers from delivering other legal care in this way.

So, Tennessee, can we start here? Let’s make sure the bill to move up this interference doesn’t pass, and then we can see what we can do about getting rid of the original, and supporting in real ways politicians who stand against such nonsense.

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See my Blog for Choice day posts going back to 2007, and NARAL’s list of participating blogs for this year.

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