Who saw Webcam Abortions coming to urban areas? We did.

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research

Merle Hoffman

When folks from the giant Planned Parenthood of the Heartland affiliate pioneered webcam abortions using RU-486 and misoprostol in July of 2008, a common rationalization from PPH was that this was to help make “abortion services” available to rural women who didn’t have time or money to travel to the big cities.

For those new to webcam abortions, it has worked like this. An abortionist located at a hub clinic teleconferences with a woman at one of the smaller satellite offices, reviews her case, and asks a couple of perfunctory questions. He then clicks a mouse, remotely unlocking a drawer at her location. In that drawer are the abortion pills which make up the two-drug abortion technique (RU-486 and a prostaglandin). She takes the RU-486 there and takes the rest of the pills home to administer to herself later.

But that was then, and this is now.

Now a well known abortion activist is talking about bringing webcam abortions not to some remote city in Iowa but to the streets of New York City. This makes it clear it was not the convenience of women but the convenience of the abortionist–and the expansion of the industry’s customer base–that was the real driver.

Merle Hoffman, a legendary abortion entrepreneur, runs the for-profit Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens, New York. Identified in an August 8, 2017 article by Crain’s New York Business as a “Millionaire Abortionist,” her clinic saw revenues of “about $10 million” in 2016.

According to Crain’s, in 1971 Hoffman helped to start one of the nation’s first legal abortion clinics in Flushing, NY. Her clinic in Jamaica, Queens, sees about 50,000 patients a year.

Hoffman says that in addition to abortion, her clinic offers prenatal care. And now she’s adding what she calls “tel-abortion.”

Hoffman describes Choices move into “tel-abortion” this way:

We did a study with a company called Gynuity where a patient calls in and we’re able to talk to her over the screen. We counsel her remotely, but she still has to get lab work and a sonogram. She could be up in Buffalo; she could be anywhere. After we review the sonogram and lab work electronically, we send her the [abortifacient] pills, and then she does a follow-up.

So far, Hoffman says she’s had 12 patients who sought this out. One of those was from Long Island, not far from the clinic. “She was 20 minutes away, but she just wanted it to be private.” Hoffman said.

Hoffman’s clinic is part of the mail order abortion project that was initiated by Gynuity’s Beverly Winikoff last year partnering with clinics in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and New York. (There are more details here.)

Hoffman’s description of her own clinic’s involvement makes plain two things: One, that this is essentially an extension of the original webcam abortion project that PPH started about a decade earlier; and two, that the intended recipient of this technology was never simply the young teen living on the prairie with no abortion clinic nearby, as NRL News Today explained on many occasions.

There were hints of this even when PPH began using webcams. Some of the locations were farther away, but at least one, in Ames, Iowa, was less than thirty miles away from Des Moines, where Planned Parenthood already had a full scale surgical and chemical abortion facility.

What webcam abortions did for PPH was to open up a broader market without having to hire or transport more abortionists.

PPH still required some office space, even if minimal, and some employee, even if only a community college graduate with only a few medical courses under his belt, to meet and process the patient and put her in front of a monitor there in clinic. Under the new system being tested by Winikoff in cooperation with clinics like Hoffman’s, even that is no longer necessary. If she has the requisite lab results and a sonogram from some local doctor, and then interviews with the abortionist online, the pills will simply be over-nighted to her home.

It is irresponsible and dangerous in the extreme, of course. Women using these abortion pills have hemorrhaged, suffered from ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and died from virulent bacterial infections. Hundreds more have survived, but ended up in the hospital. But this has rarely stopped the abortion industry.

Being in the city may not make women immune from these risks, but perhaps they will have a better chance of getting to the emergency room in time to save their lives.

That’s not due to any special consideration of the abortionist, who will get paid whether the patient is from the city or country, the streets or the farms, or a rural, urban, or suburban area.

The unborn baby dies, the abortionist gets his money, and that is the point of the whole exercise.