The word abortion usually conjures images of tile-floored clinics, doctors in white lab coats and waiting rooms full of anxious women. But one Dutch doctor is working to revolutionize access to the procedure, bypassing the clinic and turning to a novel method of delivery: the Internet.
In a powerful New York Times Magazine piece coming out this weekend, Emily Bazelon profiles Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch doctor and abortion rights activist who runs Women on Web, a “telemedicine service.” The Amsterdam-based group connects with women in countries where abortion is severely restricted or illegal, providing them with medical advice, support and prescriptions for mifepristone and misoprostol, pills that are given to women during the first trimester in order to induce miscarriage. Some 2,000 women a month, from countries as far-flung as Chile, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica and South Korea, contact Women on Web asking for help accessing the drugs, which are known as a medical abortion. When taken together, the pills are 95 to 98% effective—roughly the same effectiveness rate as the surgical procedure.