Demand for self-managed online telemedicine abortion in eight European countries during the COVID-19 pandemic: a regression discontinuity analysis

A comparative look at the requests for self-managed telemedical abortion before and after COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Patients seeking medical abortion services in many European countries are often still required to attend in-person assessments. This research focuses on whether the global outbreak of COVID-19 saw an increase in self-managed online telemedical abortion services.

Between the period of January 1, 2019 and June 1, 2020, 3915 requests for medical abortions from online telemedical provider, Women on Web, were reviewed. Regression discontinuity (a program impacts method) was used to review requests from eight European countries and compare the request rates before and after the pandemic lockdowns were implemented. Variables such as the number of COVID-19 cases, severity of restrictions, and government-provided support were factored into the evaluation of the countries’ requests.

Of the eight countries, 5 had an increase in requests ranging from 28% (Northern Ireland) to 139% (Portugal), 2 showed no change, and 1 had an 88% decrease (Great Britain). It was noted that Great Britain had implemented a fully remote telemedicine service in lieu of the pandemic.

The marked changes to abortion requests that Women on Web experienced are an indication of a greater need for self-managed telemedical access.

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