More telemedicine services are needed in Canada, Women on Web data shows

For immediate release 28/09/2021

New research conducted with Women on Web data demonstrates that women and pregnant people in Canada continue to encounter various obstacles in accessing abortion care. The data was collected during the global outbreak of COVID-19 and shows more and more women preferring the privacy and convenience that telemedicine provides over in-person services.

In January 2021, Women on Web (WoW) opened its online consultations for abortion to Canadian users. WoW is an international telemedicine abortion service that works in restrictive settings and thus does not ordinarily service countries such as Canada. For research purposes, however, WoW opened up consultations to Canadians for evaluation. 

The research shows that, although Canada has no legal restrictions on abortion, there are many reasons for Canadians to seek care through Women on Web. Between January and July 2021, we received 137 unique help requests. As part of the consultation, people were asked about their reasons for seeking online abortion services. A majority of Canadian users cited multiple reasons for accessing Women on Web remote abortion services, including being more comfortable at home (50%), preferring to self-manage their abortion (48%), and secrecy/privacy (48%). More than two-thirds (69%) preferred to access abortion through online services.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated barriers and made existing abortion services harder to access. Abortion providers in Canada therefore either began offering telemedicine abortion for the first time or expanded existing telemedicine access.

WoW research reveals, however, that telemedicine services should not be merely a response to a pandemic or service interruptions, but rather an opportunity to improve the quality of services and provide care that corresponds to the needs and preferences of women and pregnant people needing abortions.

Women on Web’s research report will be published during Digital Health Week , November 29 - December 3, 2021.

In the spirit of International Safe Abortion Day, this research further demonstrates that not only is telemedicine safe and effective but it’s a method that is more and more preferred by women and pregnant people to best address their individual needs and autonomy.   

To celebrate International Safe Abortion Day, Women on Web is hosting a crowdfunding campaign and we’re asking everyone to shift their thinking and consider each donation as a gift; gifting an abortion to someone you might know or care about. To your colleagues, to your friends, to your family, to your neighbours… to your community! Until abortion is just another medical procedure that we occasionally have to get, let’s make it as normal as possible.

For more information, please contact venny@womenonweb.org