Weak Choice

The abortion pill


One year after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the abortion pill Mifeprix, better known as RU-486, the Kaiser Family Foundation has released numbers regarding its actual availability to American women.

In a national survey sample, only 6 percent of gynecologists and a mere 1 percent of general practice physicians offer Mifeprix abortions. The largest group of those doctors—roughly 40 percent—say it's because they don't approve of abortion. Others cite lack of demand, fear of violent reprisal, political controversy, logistical problems, and a lack of interest in providing abortions of any kind.

While that's no crisis for reproductive rights, it does mean that abortion clinics currently remain the primary locale for the procedure—and high-profile targets for pro-life activists. (Fifty percent of clinics are now offering the pill, a number likely to increase rapidly.) Mifeprix, when used in conjunction with a contraction-inducing drug, has proven 96 to 98 percent effective in various trials.

Advocates had hoped that the pill, which can terminate a pregnancy up to seven weeks in, would defuse the abortion wars by making the procedure more private, available to a woman at her regular doctor's office. Though availability will likely increase, the chances of that outcome were all but eliminated early on, when the FDA placed stringent rules on how the drug would be prescribed and administered.