Abortion Is Essential Health Care
PPLM has a clear message following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade: abortion is health care, and abortion is safe, legal, and accessible in Massachusetts. Throughout the year, we remained nimble and implemented new efforts to support abortion patients from both in-state and out-of-state. Through our telehealth program, PPLM continues to expand access to medication abortion, a safe, effective way to end an early pregnancy and currently the most common form of abortion care in the U.S. This is crucial for patients in regions of Massachusetts that are abortion deserts, where the nearest abortion provider may be more than 50 miles away. To reduce the possibility of disruptions, PPLM also worked with the Healey-Driscoll administration to secure a stock of mifepristone -- one of two medications used in the most effective medication abortion regimen -- amid the on-going uncertainty of a federal court case challenging its availability. This allows us to provide stress-free continuity of care to our patients.
Telehealth Breaks Down Barriers
Post-Roe, PPLM ramped up its telehealth operations and is now offering more appointments. Patients who meet certain criteria and are in Massachusetts are being prescribed medication abortion. Telehealth also offers ease of access to patients seeking Gender Affirming Hormone Therapy (GAHT), including instruction on self-injection at home as well as referrals to providers and community resources, clinical letters for gender-affirming surgeries, and notarization assistance for legal documentation. Other widely accessed telehealth services are contraceptive consultations and contraception-by-mail; at-home sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and follow up care; prescriptions for PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) for HIV prevention and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) for emergency HIV treatment; and problem-based and follow-up care.
Enhancing Patient Experience and Support
PPLM introduced new services that are significantly improving patients’ experiences. MyChart, a patient portal launched in November 2022, enables quick 2-way communication between health center staff and patients, who can now readily schedule appointments, see test results, and view medical records in one online platform, resulting in greater patient satisfaction.
PPLM’s Patient Navigation team continues to offer counseling and stigma-free information on abortion options; prenatal care or adoption services; health insurance; available abortion funds; referrals to community resources such as housing agencies, food pantries, and mental health treatment; and, for patients under 16, guidance through Massachusetts’ judicial bypass process. Post-Roe, patient navigators saw a surge in interest from out-of-state patients, many of whom were over their state’s gestational limits. Navigators continue to help such patients get abortions in other states by arranging ground transportation, lodging, funding, and even meals.
On the volunteer side, PPLM strengthened the Clinic Escort program in Boston. These escorts meet patients entering the Boston health center and guide them past anti-abortion protestors whose numbers increased following the overturning of Roe. Starting in April 2023, a new cohort of trained volunteers are serving as Patient Liaisons in the clinic’s waiting rooms, communicating updates on wait times, answering non-medical questions, and making sure patients are comfortable while they wait. As one volunteer put it, “We help and support PPLM patients from the curb to the exam room.”
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