Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Telemedicine as an alternative way to access abortion in Italy and characteristics of requests during the COVID-19 pandemic


Introduction Induced abortion is legal in Italy but with restrictions. The online abortion provider Women on Web (WoW) serves as an alternative way to access abortion. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected sexual and reproductive health worldwide. Italy was one of the first countries hit by the pandemic and imposed strict lockdown measures. We aimed to understand why women requested WoW abortion in Italy and how this was affected by the pandemic.

Methods We conducted an observational study analysing requests made to WoW before and during the pandemic. We analysed 778 requests for medical abortion from Italy between 1 March 2019 to 30 November 2020 and compared the characteristics of requests submitted before and during the pandemic. We also performed subgroup analysis on teenagers and COVID-19-specific requests.

Results There was an increase in requests during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the previous year (12% in the first 9 months). The most common reasons for requesting a telemedicine abortion through WoW were privacy-related (40.9%); however, this shifted to COVID-19-specific (50.3%) reasons during the pandemic. Requests from teenagers (n=61) were more frequently made at later gestational stages (p=0.003), had a higher prevalence of rape (p=0.003) as the cause of unwanted pregnancies, and exhibited less access to healthcare services compared with adult women.

Conclusions There was an increase in total demand for self-managed abortion during the pandemic and reasons for requesting an abortion changed, shifting from privacy-related to COVID-19-specific reasons. This study also highlighted the uniquely vulnerable situation of teenagers with unwanted pregnancies seeking self-managed abortion.

  • abortion
  • induced
  • adolescent
  • COVID-19

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

This article is made freely available for personal use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.