Attitudes of US adults toward using telemedicine to prescribe medication abortion during COVID-19: a mixed methods study.

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We explored public opinion about using telemedicine to provide medication abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. We also investigated the associations between socio-demographic characteristics and support for using telemedicine in this context and explored factors that influenced respondents’ attitudes on the topic.In a nationally representative, web-based survey of US adults (n=711), we asked open- and closed-ended questions about using telemedicine to prescribe medication abortion during COVID-19. We used multinomial logistic regression to assess the relationship between socio-demographic characteristics, endorsement of abortion labels, and political affiliation and support for telemedicine in this circumstance. Then, we conducted content and thematic analyses with the open-ended data to explore what influenced respondents’ opinions.Overall, 332 (44%) of respondents supported using telemedicine for medication abortion during the pandemic; 237 (35%) opposed and 138 (21%) were unsure. Respondents who identified as pro-choice were more likely to support using telemedicine for abortion during the pandemic than those who identified as pro-life were to oppose it in this context (RRR 2.95; 95% CI 1.31 – 6.64). Via our content and thematic analysis, we identified that concerns about safety, the legitimacy of telemedicine, and the belief that abortion should occur as early in the pregnancy as possible influenced respondents’ beliefs about using telemedicine for medication abortion.More respondents supported using telemedicine for medication abortion during COVID-19 than opposed it. Among respondents who expressed support, most thought that medication abortion was safe and that telemedicine was equivalent to the in-person provision of care.There appears to be support among US adults for the provision of medication abortion via telemedicine during COVID-19. Policymakers may consider public sentiment as well as clinical evidence when considering legislation about abortion.

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Authors: Kathryn J LaRoche, Kristen N Jozkowski, Brandon L Crawford, Katherine R Haus