The announcement of the new service comes as a Texas law went into effect restricting abortion at six weeks of pregnancy and as a conservative-leaning Supreme Court prepares to possibly revisit the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade. But whether abortion is legal is irrelevant if the procedure is not accessible, said Serina Floyd, the medical director at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.
“We had been looking at this as an option because we, like other places, have patients who navigating the logistics of getting in-person care can be very, very challenging,” Floyd said. It can be difficult for some people to take time off from work or find child care and transportation, she added.
The Planned Parenthood affiliate started mailing out the abortion medication on Aug. 12 to those who qualify for a medical abortion. It has made four appointments available every week to begin this service, and since then, the organization has been fully booked each week. The group has been discussing ways to increase the number of appointments.
Once patients receive and take their medications, Planned Parenthood providers follow up with a phone call and a home pregnancy test, ultrasound or blood test in the office to confirm the procedure worked. The Metropolitan Washington group joins Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region in offering mailed abortion medication.
The cost of the medication is $525, and there is financial assistance available through Planned Parenthood, Floyd said. The organization uses its own funding to support patients but also works with outside funders, such as the D.C. Abortion Fund.
Private abortion funders play a huge role in supporting the District’s low-income, uninsured residents because Congress barred the District from using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions in the 1970s.
But local abortion funders have received more calls for donations during the pandemic and have struggled to provide the money. Many women, particularly women of color, have either lost jobs or insurance coverage.
“Of course, the $525 cost will still be a major barrier for many patients who have always faced barriers when trying to secure and pay for abortion services,” said Valdivia Back, the vice president of the D.C. Abortion Fund. “Having an at-home option available in the DMV won’t mitigate these hurdles alone.”