This Virtual Clinic Can Help You Get an Abortion

·8 min read
Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY - Getty Images
Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY - Getty Images

Abortion rights are under attack in the United States, and for the first time since the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Supreme Court is dangerously close to removing abortion as a constitutionally-protected right.

If that happens, state governments will have the ability to either ban or protect abortion rights for their residents. That puts people wishing to end an early pregnancy in a conservative state in a dangerous situation—not only because they could be criminalized for getting an abortion, but because they could end up resorting to getting an unsafe abortion if no established medical professionals in their state are able to help. Another possible outcome, if abortion is banned in conservative states, is that pregnant people from those states wishing to have an abortion will travel to liberal states to get one—which could result in an impossibly high demand for established abortion clinics.

Enter telemedicine.

Companies such as Hey Jane—which exists solely online and operates in six states—provide people wishing to end an early pregnancy with the FDA-approved abortion pill, mifepristone, which has been proven safe and effective. People wishing to have a medical abortion can go to Hey Jane's website and fill out a form. An abortion provider will then review the patient’s information, confirm eligibility, and fill their prescription within 24 hours. In one to five days, the patient will receive an unmarked package containing the abortion pill, along with a treatment guide and pain relievers.

BAZAAR.com spoke to Hey Jane CEO Kiki Freedman about the company's mission following the Supreme Court's vote on Roe v. Wade, what the threat on abortion rights means for women everywhere, and how telemedicine clinics can help.

Photo credit: The Washington Post - Getty Images
Photo credit: The Washington Post - Getty Images


Why did you start Hey Jane?

I went to undergrad in St. Louis, Missouri, and at the time Missouri was one of six states to have only one abortion clinic left in the entire state—and the summer of 2019, it was nearly shut down. It would have been the first time since Roe v. Wade that a state in the U.S. would not have any access to abortion, which seemed dystopian to me at the time.

Simultaneously, we were seeing digital health companies primarily focusing on stigmatized issues in men’s health, such as hair loss or erectile dysfunction. I started thinking: Is that a model for safe, discreet, affordable abortion access?

Are you an all-women team?

Hey Jane’s co-founders—myself, Dr. Kate Shaw (our Head of Medical), and Gaby Izarra (our Head of Growth and Marketing)—are women, but the rest of our team reflects the diversity of our patients: Our team includes people who are men and nonbinary.

How does Hey Jane work?

At Hey Jane, an experienced abortion provider will review a patient’s information and confirm eligibility and fill their prescription within 24 hours. From there, the medications, along with our thorough treatment guide and comfort medications, are delivered in an unmarked package within one to five business days. Patients are able to reach out directly to our clinical care team via text, phone, or video on their own schedule—no appointments necessary—throughout the entire treatment.

Hey Jane’s model means we can cut down on wait times for patients (since you don’t need to be near a clinic to get the care you need) and help take on patients from overburdened in-person clinics. Treatment with Hey Jane is half the average in-clinic price, and we partner with abortion funds to provide financial assistance if needed.

And Hey Jane’s Complete Care model addresses additional emotional burdens that some may feel from the extra barriers they will be facing post-Roe. Our clinical care team is available for not just medical support, but also emotional support. Plus all Hey Jane patients have access to our first-of-its-kind private peer-to-peer support forum, The Lounge, before, during and after their treatment.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, do you run the risk of being shut down? Or could you continue operating because you are an online service?

Telemedicine abortion is safe, effective, and, post-Roe, likely to be the most viable form of access for most of the country. Hey Jane is here to help.

Even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Hey Jane will continue to support patients in the six states we’re currently operating in (California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and Washington)—mifepristone has been FDA approved since 2000, mailing abortion pills has been FDA approved since 2021, and telemedicine abortion will continue to be legal in those six states (among others).

We see opportunities for telemedicine abortion—and Hey Jane in particular—to play an important role if the Supreme Court does indeed overturn Roe v. Wade, specifically when it comes to travel time, wait time, cost, and support.

Have you seen a rise in interest/demand since we learned of the Supreme Court’s vote on Roe v. Wade?

The polling is clear: The majority of Americans identify as pro-choice, do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and believe that every person should have the right to access abortion care.

In the past month, it’s been heartening to see people becoming more vocal about supporting abortion access—and about different options people may have in getting the care they need. A survey from 2020 found that only one in five adults have ever heard of mifepristone or a medication abortion, but since the Dobbs decision leak, we are seeing more people talking about medication abortion and sharing information about it. For example, the day after the leak, Hey Jane’s site traffic quintupled from our daily average.

We also have an open text line that anyone (not just our patients) can message with questions, and in the two weeks following the Dobbs decision leak we saw a 40% increase in messages. We take that as a sign that more people are learning about this safe, effective abortion option—which will be crucial in a post-Roe future.

Do you sense a fear among customers? Women in general?

The reality is that overturning Roe v. Wade—and the cruel bans that have already been in place—will be absolutely devastating to pregnant people, especially Black and brown people, low-income people, and young people. Generations will be worse off than they are today, and so many liberties are on the line.

In-clinic care is still important for many reasons—patient preference, specific health conditions, etc. But unlike 1972, in 2022 we have safe and effective pills that put the power back in people’s hands, and we have the technology to connect with people and give them medical and emotional support, no matter where they are.

Do you feel that abortion rights are being threatened now more than ever?

The unfortunate reality is that, for far too many people, their access to getting abortion care has been restricted even with Roe v. Wade. Existing laws have already created unnecessary barriers to care that have especially impacted Black and brown people, low-income people, and young people.

Do you also provide customers with education on abortion? There are so many myths that lead to people having children they don’t want to raise or get unsafe abortions out of shame or lack of knowledge or resources.

At Hey Jane we go beyond just providing medical care—and educating our patients is an important part of the work we do. Our website has a trove of resources, including facts about abortion and mental health (extensive research has shown that having an abortion does not increase a person’s risk for depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder—but pregnant people who are denied an abortion experience immediate high levels of anxiety, poor self-esteem, and lowered life satisfaction when compared to people who are able to obtain an abortion), advice on talking to people about your abortion, and more.

Every patient gets Hey Jane’s thorough Treatment Guide when they receive their abortion pills, to help them understand the process and address a lot of the questions we hear often. Our patients also always have Hey Jane’s clinical care team just a tap away—our team is available by text, phone, or video to answer questions.

And all Hey Jane patients have access to The Lounge, which is our private peer-to-peer forum, where they can connect, ask questions, and share their experiences with other Hey Jane patients who are going through the same thing.

What are some of the biggest myths being told about abortion today?

Medication abortion is extremely common (it accounts for more than half of all U.S abortions) and has been widely studied, so we know that it’s effective (up to 98% effective up to 11 weeks), it’s safe (in fact, it has a significant adverse reaction rate that is lower than Tylenol, Viagra, or other common drugs), does not cause depression, does not cause breast cancer, and will not affect your future ability to get pregnant when (and if) you decide the time is right. Furthermore, there are many negative consequence associated with denying an abortion to someone who wants one.

What is the general feeling at your company right now, amongst colleagues?

The overturning of Roe v. Wade would be an incredible attack on individual liberty and equity—but it has only increased Hey Jane’s drive to fight resolutely for high-quality abortion access for everyone. Hey Jane is prepared to meet the moment, accommodating significant increases in demand and supporting as many people as possible get the care they need.

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