In response to restrictions, Planned Parenthood expands telemedicine program

Washington D.C. (CNA).- After several months of new pro-life legislation aimed at restricting abortion or defunding Planned Parenthood, the organization’s national branch has announced the expansion of its telemedicine program to all 50 states by next year.

The Planned Parenthood Direct app, through which users can request birth control delivery, UTI treatment prescriptions, and appointments at Planned Parenthood, is currently available in 27 states.

According to its website, Planned Parenthood has also used telemedicine to prescribe mifepristone and misoprostol, the two drugs used in medical abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 18 states require that a licensed physician be physically present during medical abortions, effectively banning abortions prescribed via telemedicine.

“As politicians across the country try to restrict or block access to critical reproductive and sexual health care, the Planned Parenthood Direct app is just one part of the work we do to ensure that more people can get the care they need, no matter where they are,” Planned Parenthood CEO and acting president Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement released Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood said the app will help remedy the “vast unmet need for sexual and reproductive health care in the United States,” by helping patients “overcome barriers” such as travel distance or lack of childcare during appointments.

The organization noted in its release that the expansion of the app was, in part, a response to a new pro-life policy at the federal level.

“In the wake of increasing restrictions on sexual and reproductive health care, the Planned Parenthood Direct app is helping to break down barriers and get people the timely care and information they need,” the statement said.

Last month, Planned Parenthood announced its plans to opt out of the Title X family planning program, following the passage of the Protect Life Rule, which bans recipients of Title X money from referring women for abortions, and from being located in buildings with abortion clinics. It also requires the financial separation of government-funded programs with programs that perform abortions.

By opting out of Title X, Planned Parenthood chose to forgo roughly $60 million in annual funds, or about 15% of its annual federal funding.

The Protect Life Rule came amidst numerous attempts at the state level to close Planned Parenthood clinics or restrict abortions. So far this year, Alabama, Arkansas and Utah have passed laws that would ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy. Other states, including Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio, passed heartbeat bills that would restrict abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs between six and eight weeks of pregnancy. A lengthy clinic licensure debate in Missouri could mean the closure of the last Planned Parenthood in the state.

Many of these state laws have not yet gone into effect, and are all being challenged in the courts by Planned Parenthood or other abortion advocacy groups.