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Gender Block: more abortion options in 2016

New drug development and approval could mean better abortion access this year

Hillary Di Menna

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament,” wrote feminist writer Susan Maushart  in her book The Mask of Motherhood, after seeing it written in a New York subterranean passageway.

Women are still forced to ask Daddy Patriarchy for permission when it comes to reproductive rights. Being denied access to a safe abortion because a doctor is Catholic, for example, seems absurd in 2016. Yet here we are. The bright side is progress is being made, at a snail’s pace perhaps, but made nonetheless. This year a new medical abortion option will become available to women: RU-486 (marketed in Canada as Mifegymiso).

Medical abortions provide more choices to women as well, putting more control in women’s hands, “As usual with medical decisions, there are a variety of factors at play,” writes Planned Parenthood Toronto in response to my questions, “including many personal ones, and the important thing is that there is a choice at all.”

Mifegymiso has been available for women in France for over two decades. In Canada it usually takes nine months for a drug to be approved. Mifegymiso was reviewed by Health Canada for two and-a-half years. It’s now hoped this option will become available in the spring. Mifegymiso is a combination of two drugs. The first drug will prevent the production of progesterone, which prepares the uterine lining for pregnancy. The second drug, misoprostol, will cause contractions, eventually leading to an abortion. The process is similar to a miscarriage, and can even be used to aid in such situations. Only doctors will be able to give women a prescription for Mifegymiso, at least to begin with.

The current medical option is similar, using a mixture of methotrexate and, again, misoprostol. Methotrexate blocks cell growth; in the case of abortions it prevents the placenta from growing. This same drug is used to treat cancer and arthritis, as well as ectopic pregnancies. Misoprostol is taken at home, 3 to 7 days after the methotrexate is injected. A woman may choose a time that best suits her needs within this time frame. Misoprostol comes in tablets to be inserted vaginally. Like with Mifegymiso, the methotrexate misoprostol combo creates an abortion similar to a miscarriage.

While a trained pharmacist can fill the prescription, they must deliver it directly to a physician, who will have to administer the medication. It is never in the hands of a patient. So, as a Toronto Star article points out, “But if you’re in a remote or rural community, you don’t have a family doctor or your primary care provider doesn’t want to prescribe an abortifacent pill, you could be in the same boat, access-wise, you are now.”

A former This intern, Hillary Di Menna is in her second year of the gender and women’s studies program at York University. She also maintains an online feminist resource directory, FIRE- Feminist Internet Resource Exchange.

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