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The abortion drug Mifepristone (Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Turning point

Are abortion pills the ‘next frontier’ for reproductive rights?

By WITW Staff on November 1, 2016

Women in the United States are increasingly terminating pregnancies through medical prescriptions, Reuters reports. Medication abortions accounted for 43 percent of all pregnancy terminations performed at Planned Parenthood in 2014, up from 35 percent in 2010.

“Medication abortion is definitely the next frontier,” Gloria Totten, president of the Public Leadership Institute, a nonprofit that advises advocates, told Reuters.

This method, which allows women to end pregnancies at home, provides an alternative to in-clinic surgical abortions. Medication abortions are induced using two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The pills are taken over the course of one or two days, and are safe and effective 95 percent of the time.

Mifepristone and misoprostol were approved for use in pregnancy terminations 16 years ago, and it was expected that medication abortions would quickly surpass the surgical method. But lawmakers in some states restricted access to the drugs, and physicians in other states were reluctant to prescribe them, out of concern that they would become the target of anti-abortion protestors.

The recent surge in medication abortions can be attributed to several factors. Restricted access to surgical abortions in some states, for instance, has prompted women to seek out other options.

Abortion providers have also expanded their reach through innovative methods, like telemedicine. In states with few Planned Parenthood clinics, medical professionals can send a woman’s medical files to an off-site doctor, who will then talk to the patient via video conference and authorize medication. In Iowa, in fact, the number of medication abortions increased to 64 percent after telemedicine programs were introduced in the state.

New guidelines regulating the prescription of abortion pills have likely impacted the national rate as well. In March of this year, the U.S. Food and Drug administration allowed the pills to be prescribed until 10 weeks into a pregnancy, up from seven weeks. It also reduced the number of medical visits that a woman would need to make to obtain the pills, and allowed more medical professionals — like nurse practitioners — to prescribe the medication.

Read the full story at Reuters.



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