Non-surgical abortions are a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy without requiring a surgical procedure. In the U.S. it is generally administered with two medications; the first to stop fetal growth and the second to induce a miscarriage. While is it likely that a miscarriage will occur naturally after fetal growth is halted it can take longer for this to occur which is why the second medication is used. This option is commonly chosen by women who want to avoid the invasiveness of a surgical procedure or who want to pass the pregnancy in the privacy of their homes. Whatever their reasons are for choosing a medication termination over a surgical are personal to each individual and should not be limited.
Last summer, North Dakota lawmakers banned the off label use of a common medication used in medication terminations. Most medications are approved by the FDA for one or two uses but are useful for many other medical conditions. For example Topamax® is a prescription medication FDA approved for the treatment of epilepsy in adults or children; however it has been found to also be effective in treating migraines. Doctors who prescribe it for migraine sufferers are prescribing it for an off-label use. The North Dakota law only bans off label use for a medication used in abortions; not off label use in general which makes it unconstitutional and unfairly limits the options available to abortion patients.
According to the Huffington Post the Red River Women’s Clinic performs approximately 1300 abortions a year and about 250 of them are medication based. They use mifeprex to stop fetal growth and this medication is FDA approved for that use. The problem comes with the second medication used to induce a miscarriage, misoprostol which is FDA approved for the treatment of ulcers but not abortion.
In July the Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of Red River Women’s Clinic, (the only abortion provider in the state) filed suit against the law and was successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order to block the law from taking effect. The judge has been hearing arguments both for and against the law and has continued the order until he makes a decision regarding a permanent block on the law.
The law leaves women with access to the drug that stops cell growth but not the drug that will actually cause the miscarriage, according to CanadianBusiness.com this is one of the issues the judge has with the law. He is quoted as saying “You’ve got one drug … that’s labeled for use in abortions, but you’ve got another drug that isn’t, and you need them both… I don’t get it. How do I get around that?” The lawyer for the state replied that mifeprex alone could induce an abortion. Judge Corwin replied: “So you’re suggesting that a doctor should give patients the (mifeprex) and just hope that that works? And if it doesn’t, then what do they do?” He also pointed out that the state didn’t provide evidence that medication abortions are unsafe or even less safe than the surgical procedure.
Though Judge Corwin has yet to make a final decision, it seems there is reason to be hopeful that this law will be overturned.