Cui N, Gemzell-Danielsson K, Gomperts R
BMJ Sex Reprod Health - (-) - [2022-11-21; online 2022-11-21]
The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed strict lockdown restrictions that have introduced barriers to in-person abortion clinic visits in the Netherlands. Women on Web (WoW) is a global medical abortion telemedicine service operating outside the formal health sector. To understand the motivations and perceived barriers women faced when choosing telemedicine abortion outside the formal health sector, and how this was affected by the pandemic. 178 women who completed an online consultation on the Dutch WoW website during the period 6 March 2020 to 5 March 2021 were included in this cross-sectional cohort study and exploratory qualitative study. Patient characteristics and motivations were analysed and associated with the severity of COVID-19 restrictions. Email exchanges in which women could further describe their requests were also examined for recurrent clarification of motivations. Women experienced barriers to regular abortion care due to COVID-19 restrictions and had the preference to (1) self-manage their abortion, (2) stay in the comfort of their own home, and (3) keep their abortion private. In particular, women who did not live in the cities where abortion clinics were located experienced barriers to abortion services. As COVID-19 restrictions tightened, it was more frequently mentioned that women sought help from WoW because COVID-19 restrictions and abortion care were not accessible to them in the Netherlands. In the qualitative analysis of email exchanges, the reasons of COVID-19, privacy concerns, and domestic violence were particularly evident. In the Netherlands, barriers to receiving adequate abortion care were exacerbated for women in vulnerable positions such as being geographically farther away from an abortion clinic, being in a deprived socioeconomic position, or being in an unsafe home situation. Similar to other medical care, abortion care should be deliverable online.