When a couple of doctors got together in 2019 to create a free hotline for people who have questions about their miscarriage or abortion, they could never have envisioned how popular their service, the?Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline, would become.
But with many women facing laws in their state making abortions illegal, and with federal regulatory changes allowing abortion pills to be sent by mail and taken without medical assistance, the demand for this service is growing.
“The goal of the hotline is to help people safely manage their abortions and miscarriages, so they don’t have to unnecessarily go to the hospital,” says?April Lockley, DO, a family medicine physician in New York City and the medical director of the hotline, which is also known as the M+A Hotline. “We are there to support people during the process.”
Experienced Professionals Staff the Hotline
Anyone who has a question about a planned, ongoing, or recent abortion or miscarriage can call or text the hotline for free, at 833-246-2632.
The secure line is staffed from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. in all continental U.S. time zones. No one is asked their name, state, or any identifying personal information.
All questions are answered by healthcare professionals who volunteer their time. They aim to respond to calls or messages within one hour, according to the hotline’s website.
These professionals include physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), and midwives. “All have experience providing care in this area,” Dr. Lockley says, noting that some practitioners have worked in gynecology for decades.
Their only goal is to help people who need it, Lockley stresses.
Demand for Miscarriage and Abortion Help Is Growing
Lockley says the service has grown significantly since she signed on in early 2020. At that time, a dozen volunteers answered a handful of calls a day.
Now the hotline includes 50 medical volunteers getting an average of 25 to 45 calls and texts daily.
The increases started when COVID-19 first hit, a time when more people discovered that early pregnancies can be safely and effectively terminated with medicines rather than only via a surgical procedure.
Then, when Texas passed its six-week abortion restrictions, more people flocked to the site to learn about their options and to get help as needed.
Finally, when the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs decision in June 2022, significantly more people began seeking this medical support.
Help Is Sought Especially for Self-Managed Abortions
One of the reasons more women learned about medical abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic was a significant new policy that altered the abortion landscape: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed some rules related to the key medication used in abortions.
Previously, the agency required that the medicine be administered in a clinic, hospital, or under the direct supervision of a certified medical provider — the “in-person dispensing requirement.”
The FDA first temporarily repealed the requirement, demanding only that dispensing pharmacies be certified. Then it?made these changes permanent in December of 2021.
This means women can now have abortion pills prescribed via telehealth. Or they can have them sent from certain pharmacies directly, without seeing a physician.
It is these women who likely most benefit from the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline, says Elisa Wells, MPH, the cofounder of the abortion information website?Plan C, whose website directs women to this service.
“We know this type of personal medical support is especially important to people who may be self-managing their abortions at home,” she says.
People Commonly Ask About the Process of a Medical Abortion
The drug?mifepristone is taken first: It stops pregnancy cells from growing and replicating. This is followed one or two days later by?misoprostol, a medication that brings on heavy cramping that expels the tissue in the uterus.
Many of the questions women ask the hotline are about the process, including whether what they are experiencing is normal, Lockley says.
For instance, people may wonder whether they can safely take the pills if they are on a medication such as an antidepressant (they can), or how soon bleeding starts after they take the second drug (roughly six hours), or whether it’s normal to have nausea, vomiting, or chills during the process (it is).
“It’s reassuring for people to learn from a medical professional that what they are experiencing is normal,” Lockley says.
Other questions involve miscarriage, such as wondering if they need medicines to complete the process or whether the bleeding they’re experiencing means a miscarriage is imminent, or if it might be something else.
When to See a Doctor
In some cases, the hotline healthcare professionals cannot answer your question, and they may direct you to contact your own doctor or seek emergency medical help at an ER (or by calling 911). This may be the case, for example, if you have very heavy bleeding soaking through two or more pads per hour for two hours in a row. You should also seek help from local physicians if you experience issues like this outside of hotline hours.
A Range of Other Information Is on the Group’s Website
In addition to information about the hotline itself, the group’s website features other information people may need about miscarriage or abortion.
For example, the website lists other sites that offer telehealth abortions, since the hotline does not prescribe abortion medication. These vary by state but include?Aid Access, Hey Jane, and?Just the Pill.
Other resources provide information on medical abortions, such as?Abortion on Our Own Terms.
The website also lists resources for people wanting assistance dealing with emotional aspects of a miscarriage or abortion, like the?Exhale: Pro-Voice Helpline, and those needing financial help to get an abortion, including the?National Abortion Federation Hotline Fund.