Due to intense stigma and political pressure by anti-abortion activist, hospitals were still shying away from providing abortion services, even after Roe v. Wade. Stand-alone reproductive health clinics, instead, were left to provide these services to women. However, there were never enough and they were always vulnerable to anti-abortion protesters. The abortion pill was supposed to change all that, says Gabby Bess.
“Over 16 years ago, the United States stood on the brink of a reproductive rights revolution.” Bess notes. “The FDA was in the final stretch of approving mifepristone… which was said to make ending a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks as easy as taking a pill.”
While later-term surgical abortions would still be necessary but mifepristone was on the verge of bringing abortion into the mainstream by widening the pool of doctors willing to “simply write a prescription for a pill.”
But almost two decades later, abortion access has not expanded, and in states across the country, clinics are, instead being forced to shut down. And access to the abortion pill is still not easy. Republican opposition to medical abortion has been fierce, particularly since the 90’s and they have used all types of misinformation and the FDA itself to thwart access.
For example, after it was patented, Viagra was almost immediately cleared by the FDA and available on the market despite some suggestion that it might cause serious cardiovascular problems. For mifepristone, on the other hand, a safe and highly effective drug, the FDA required that “prescribing doctors be trained in mifepristone’s use, be trained in reading ultrasound scans, and maintain admitting privileges at hospitals with emergency facilities no more than an hour from their offices, in case women experience complications.”
These rules, based on politics, not research haven’t made the abortion pill safer, says Bess, just harder to obtain.