TikTok holds useful info about medication abortion

"It's important that people in more restrictive states have the opportunity to learn about medication abortions even if they don't have in-person access," Melissa Montoya says. (Credit: Sierra Houk/Unsplash)

Popular TikTok videos that highlight ways to obtain a medication abortion are typically informative and useful, a study finds.

The researchers evaluated the 100 most-viewed TikTok videos tagged #abortionpill, #medicalabortion, and #medicationabortion. Those videos often detailed what a medication abortion is, how to obtain a medication abortion, and the pills involved.

Of the 65 videos that presented public health information, 89.2% were mostly accurate and 10.8% were mixed. Of the 51 videos that presented scientific claims, 86.3% were mostly accurate and 13.7% were mixed.

Researchers Jenny Wu and Melissa Montoya, both residents in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine, and Jonas Swartz, an assistant professor, led the study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“When we started the study, we expected to find more videos with misinformation,” Wu says. “After looking at the data we were surprised by how accurate the videos were. A significant number of videos were created by healthcare professionals and organizations providing abortion. TikTok says it has internal policies for blocking inaccurate information which might also have helped on this topic.”

In a post-Roe era, social media platforms can help educate people and combat the stigma surrounding abortions.

“It’s important that people in more restrictive states have the opportunity to learn about medication abortions even if they don’t have in-person access,” Montoya says. “People are experiencing decreased access to reproductive health services. TikTok can be a way to engage patients and share reliable information.”

The researchers note that the focus on health education and accuracy of information about medication abortion contrasts with some other reproductive health topics.

“Videos on this topic often mirror what a patient would learn from a clinician or abortion educator, in part because of the fact that TikTok removed some hashtags, like #DIYabortion, where individuals were sharing non-FDA-approved regimens,” Swartz says. “This demonstrates one area where health care organizations have been able to shape a narrative and use the platform to disseminate important information.”

The study received funding support from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the US National Institutes of Health.

Source: Duke University