City’s hospital system launches telehealth program for abortion care

NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens, which will provide virtual abortion care.
NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

The city’s public hospital system is launching a new program to provide telehealth abortion access to all New Yorkers, allowing medical professionals to provide medication abortion kits after a virtual consultation.

NYC Health + Hospitals ushered in the new program on Monday, making it the country’s first public healthcare system to provide such services. 

Mayor Eric Adams said the new program is necessary to combat ongoing efforts to limit reproductive rights after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year and hampered the ability of many Americans in multiple states to obtain abortion services.  

“Here in New York City, we will not allow the far right to continue its crusade to strip women of their reproductive rights. Last year, an activist Supreme Court undermined almost 50 years of settled law by overturning Roe v. Wade, but New Yorkers know that access to safe, legal abortion care is the cornerstone of public health, and we will not stand idly by as these attacks on women continue,” Adams said in a statement. 

Telehealth visits, using video or audio calls with doctors, will help streamline the process of receiving medical care by reducing costs and logistical hurdles associated with in-person consultations, Hizzoner said.   

“Today, I am proud to announce another first for any city government: Access to abortion care will now be available through telehealth visits at NYC Health + Hospitals sites from the comfort of one’s home,” he said. “Telehealth abortion care allows the people in our lives to make the choices they need privately and safely, so that they can decide what is best for them and their futures. This is about protecting the ability for women to control their own bodies, their choices, and their freedoms.”

Now, patients looking to obtain abortion care can schedule a visit through Virtual ExpressCare to get an assessment and counseling, and, if they are approved, receive a medication abortion kit in the mail. 

The service will be available every day of the week, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m, the mayor said. 

“Adding Virtual ExpressCare to that suite of options for patients at NYC Health + Hospitals is an important next step in making reproductive health care conversations easy, accessible, and convenient for every person,” Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom said in a statement. 

While patients will not need to be physically present in a medical office, they must be located within the five boroughs during their virtual visit, and need to commit to being within New York City limits when they consume any medication prescribed during their appointment.

The medication that will now be legally prescribed during a telehealth visit is available to patients within 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Patients using Virtual ExpressCare will have the option of conducting their virtual visits in over 200 languages, and will have access to a swath of other pregnancy-related medical care options from the team of state-licensed health care professionals at NYC Health + Hospitals. 

As with in-person visits to NYC Health + Hospitals, patients will have access to financial advice and resources that will aid them regardless of their ability to pay for needed services. 

The new measure comes after the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the guaranteed right to abortion services nationwide.

“Healthcare is a human right and that includes reproductive health,” said Queens Council Member Lynn Schulman, the chair of the legislature’s Health Committee. “Today’s announcement of an innovative telehealth abortion initiative is a welcome and vitally needed service, especially after last year’s Supreme Court reversal of reproductive choice. I want to thank Mayor Adams for his continued commitment to the health care of all New Yorkers.”

New Yorkers looking to access the newly-launched telehealth abortion care can call (718) 360-8981, or visit the relevant NYC Health + Hospitals website here.

“In New York City, we will never stop fighting for a woman’s right to choose the care that is right for them, and we will never stop working to make abortion care more accessible to all New Yorkers,” the mayor said.