While Trump's win initially presented a serious threat to women's reproductive rights, we seem to be catching a few breaks lately — first with the new administration's inability to repeal Obamacare so far, and now, with a new study whose findings point to the possibility of women having even more direct access to abortion, rather than less.
Recent research found that ordering abortion pills over the phone and taking them in the comfort of your home is safe and effective. According to Vice, the study’s findings were presented at the World Congress on Public Health after it analyzed 1,000 women who received the pills. Eight-two percent of the women who took the pills confirmed terminated pregnancy without any health complications. (Important to note: 15 percent of the women could not be reached to confirm results.)
But don't get too excited yet. While this new study is certainly a step in the right direction, we’re still leaps and bounds away from having this pill actually available over the counter. It took a full 20 years for the FDA to approve doctors to administer the abortion pill to patients in person.
How it works right now: You go into a clinic or doctor’s office to confirm that you want to terminate your pregnancy within the legal time frame, and a nurse gives you the first pill, which contains mifepristone (a synthetic steroid with anti-progestational effects, meaning it makes your uterus unfriendly to fertilized eggs). You’re then sent home with the second pill (misoprostol, a hormone used to instigate labor, abortions and treat stomach ulcers) which you take 24 hours later. Ultimately, the two pills work in conjunction to terminate pregnancy, and currently cost between $0 and $800, depending on your insurance.
Since its legalization in 2000, over 500,000 women have ended unplanned pregnancies this way. While abortion using this pill is still uncomfortable and painful and often involves severe cramping and bleeding, it's said to be far less invasive and emotionally distressing than surgical abortion.
For women in the early stages of an unplanned pregnancy (up to 10 weeks), a pill is a superior option. If it were available over the phone, it would make termination that much easier and cheaper for women. Going to the clinic for surgical abortions, during which women are often subjected to harassment, invasive examinations and in some cases, ultrasounds of the fetus, can be traumatic. Plus, through telemedicine and companies like the Talbott Foundation, women would be able to get these pills by making a phone call. The service costs $250 — also far cheaper than going to a clinic, especially for the uninsured.
In a press release, Suzanne Belton, associate professor at Charles Darwin University, who presented the findings, said, “Telehealth abortions with tablets are a safe and effective way for Australian women to seek a termination of pregnancy. It is a low-risk procedure. Very few women needed extra support at a hospital for assistance with bleeding or additional pain relief."
Being able to avoid that kind of discomfort would be a much-needed step in the right direction for women’s health care and agency over our own bodies. Again, we've still got a ways to go, but in the face of open threats by the U.S. government to remove our ability to make our own reproductive choices, it's heartening to know that research like this continues to turn up positive results — and hopefully, in the future, more tangible options — for women.