NEW YORK – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved labeling changes that will expand access to an effective medication that induces abortion.
Mifepristone has been around for about 40 years, but the protocols for prescribing it already were out-of-date when they were last changed 16 years ago.
Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, described the new labeling as an affirmation that the protocols many doctors have been using are based on evidence and science.
“They allow the use of medication abortion up through 70 days of pregnancy,” Nash explained, “and they use a lower dose of the medicine, which reduces the cost and reduces the side effects.”
While the new labeling will not have much impact in states such as New York, where abortion services are accessible, some states have used the outdated protocols to restrict access to the drug.
According to Nash, in 2011 about 25 percent of all abortions were done with medication and, in some areas, twice that amount. But states such as Texas, Ohio and North Dakota have used adherence to the old protocols to limit access to mifepristone.
“And so, when we see decreases because of these laws, you expect when access is eased to see an increase in the use of the method,” she said.
She explained that what some see as another advantage of medication-based abortion is that it is available from anyone authorized to write the prescriptions.
“This could also expand to not just physicians, but to other providers – like physician assistants – who could potentially provide this method,” Nash said.
With some states continuing to impose new restrictions on surgical abortions, Nash said easing access to mifepristone could help women in those areas.
PHOTO: New prescription protocols are expected to expand access to mifepristone. Photo Credit: Wesley Wilson/pexels.com.
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