By ZawnVillines | 22 August 2019
In 2000, a new abortion option became available: the so-called abortion drug, a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, allowed patients to undergo an abortion on their own terms, often in the comfort of their homes. By 2014, the abortion pill was one of the most popular abortion methods, accounting for 45% of early abortions. This week, GenBioPro announced it would offer a generic version of the abortion pill.
As legislators across the country move to close abortion clinics, the expanded access to medical abortions offers a glimmer of hope.
How a Generic Abortion Pill Could Improve Abortion Access
Women seeking abortions frequently do so for financial reasons. Taking time off of work to go to a clinic, wading through a crowd of protests, and endless time spent in a waiting room can make the procedure more difficult. When women can take a pill on their own terms, the process becomes less onerous, more affordable, and potentially less stressful. With the abortion pill, a woman might ask a doula, a pastor, or a dear friend to sit with her while she takes the pill, allowing her more agency and a chance to dictate the terms of the experience.
The advent of telemedicine makes things even easier. Research increasingly shows that telemedicine abortions, during which a woman virtually meets with a doctor through an app to get an abortion pill prescription, are safe. When combined with generic access, telemedicine abortions could democratize the procedure, making it easier for women with fewer resources to access abortion services.
Predictably, 17 states have already banned telemedicine abortion—putting a higher burden on women with the fewest resources, without any public interest or scientific basis for doing so.
For women who want to get around their state’s telemedicine abortion bans, there may be another option. Online pharmacies are increasingly offering abortion pills without a prescription. A 2017 study found that these pills are safe, but they did not typically come with instructions. This points to the difficult choices women seeking affordable abortions must make, especially when states attempt to limit access.
Is it Time to Relax Abortion Pill Restrictions?
Just in time for the new generic abortion pill, the New England Journal of Medicine published a piece by Jane E. Henney, a former FDA chief, calling for a relaxation of abortion pill restrictions. Henney ran the FDA when it approved the abortion pill. At the time, the agency put the pill in its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies program. This program, which also includes highly addictive drugs, requires women to get the drug from a clinic or hospital, not a pharmacy. The pill is also subject to more stringent regulations than almost every other drug in the program, despite having an excellent safety profile.
In the piece, Henney calls current restrictions “inappropriate.” She calls on the FDA to revisit these restrictions, and to consider a different regulatory structure that promotes access while still protecting patients.
In states across the United States, legislators have ignored pleas from constituents to consider the life-threatening consequences of banning abortion. They have refused to consider that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose abortion bans. In a political climate where men eagerly act to control women, regardless of the health toll it takes or the political cost they must pay to do so, it seems unlikely that the FDA will change its policy.
Just 21% of Americans say that a candidate’s views on abortion are dealbreakers when casting a vote. Perhaps if more Americans were willing to use abortion as the litmus test it should be—after all, women are human beings who deserve full human freedom—legislators might be less willing to ban abortion or to needlessly restrict safe drugs.
Wing, a single mother who needed to supplement her income to help pay for legal fees related to a custody battle, filled the demand she saw for self-managed abortion. Now, she could face up to 8 years in prison for doing so. https://t.co/j4R0vbhTsH
— Rewire.News (@Rewire_News) August 10, 2019
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