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Why the Abortion Pill’s New Labeling Is Beneficial to Women Everywhere

While some presidential candidates think women should be punished for having abortions, we’re of the mindset that we should be making it easier for people to make safe and practical decisions about their own bodies. That’s why we’re running this story from the The National Network of Abortion Funds.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved new and updated labeling of Mifeprex® (mifepristone), a pill used for medication abortions. The FDA now approves abortion providers to give patients a lower dosage (200 mg) of mifepristone through 70 days gestation, rather than the old label’s recommendation of 600 mg for 49 days gestation.

This is a huge win for everyone, especially people across the country who are in need of abortion funds. Here are six reasons why.

1. Mifepristone Will Be Available in More Clinics

Wait, why wasn’t this easy-to-use method of abortion available throughall clinics before? The answer is simple: politically driven regulations. In many states, regulations require a doctor to be present while their patient takes the first and second pill in the series. If the patient lives more than 30 minutes away, they run the risk of their abortion beginning on the way home in a car or on public transportation. Caring more about the safety of their patients than the legislatures in those states, some clinics stopped administering abortion pills until patients were able to again take part of their medication at home. Changing these guidelines to better reflect medical professionals’ recommendations and the lives of their patients allows clinics to again administer abortion medication without worry of harming their patients or liability. This is a step in the right direction.

2. Medication Abortion Will Become More Attainable, Both in Terms of Time Limits and Accessibility

Updating the medication abortion label for early pregnancy termination gives patients a more accessible window to seek an abortion, which is now up to 70 days gestation. As studies have shown, clinic closures plus outdated regulation of medication abortion lead to clinic delays, which force many people to have more expensive and harder-to-access second trimester procedures.

The label change of mifepristone is also an important step for those with disabilities that make it hard to get to a clinic (and can make it impossible to get there for multiple trips). Every visit to a clinic is another potential barrier to getting care, and another place where even the most resourceful and certain person may not be able to overcome the systemic oppression that keeps them from the abortion care they need.

3. The Average Price of Abortion Will Drop if There are Fewer Later Surgical Abortions

In brass tacks, this means that people will have the ability to terminate earlier in their schedule, resulting in a less expensive procedure than a later surgical abortion. While a first trimester surgical abortion costs around $470, and medication abortion can cost up to $800 (but is often less), a later surgical abortion can costs upwards of $2,000 (plus travel, lodging, child care, missed work, and a slew of other associated expenses).

4. It Will Make Certain TRAP Laws Meaningless

Even though medication abortions are ridiculously safe, states still excessively regulate it. As part of Targeted Regulation on Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, three states require medication abortions to be dispensed exactly as the label describes, which until yesterday was an outdated protocol and cost patients more due to additional (and medically unnecessary) dosages.

For instance, in 2011 Ohio legislators passed a law that, as Chrisse France, Executive Director of Preterm, describes in a press release, “forced Ohio abortion providers to follow an outdated and less effective FDA protocol,” which “made medication abortion unnecessarily costly and nearly impossible to access.” The new label renders the Ohio law meaningless. Having been part of clinical trials in the 1990s that led to FDA approval of medication abortion, Preterm is an authority on medication abortion.

Using outdated dosages is not the only way politicians come between evidence-based science, providers, and patients: Thirty-seven states require a licensed physician to dispense the medication, while in many countries it’s available at local pharmacies. In 18 states, the physician must be physically in the room with the patient, effectively banning telemedicine abortions. This makes medication abortion difficult to access, which is already coupled with the ever-decreasing availability of abortion services due to TRAP laws closing clinics across the country.

5. More Options for Patients

Abortion by medication is a game-changer for those in need of abortion funds. People accessing our services are more likely to lack paid time off for sick leave or vacation, and more likely to be located in rural areas where there is no clinic access. Taking control of when and how they have their abortions allows our callers to schedule their abortion for when they have days off of work, when they can arrange childcare, and can even enable them to be at home with their families or networks during their abortion. Two-thirds of people having abortions are already parents, and a majority are living in or just above the poverty level. This kind of flexibility puts the power in the hands of those having an abortion, and allows them to move forward with the other priorities in their life. Taking that power away severely limits the autonomy and options of those in need of abortion funds.

6. A Government Entity Making the Abortion Pill More Accessible Goes a Long Way Towards Destigmatizing Abortion

By changing the label on medication abortions, the government is affirming that mifepristone is a normal medication, which should be regulated based on science-based evidence, not abortion stigma and ideology. This also goes a long way to destigmatizing medication abortion for providers who do not commonly perform abortions. It encourages them to learn about the new methods for dispersal, and the exceedingly safe methods available for those who need abortion. Medical communities should be encouraged to continue to learn about the effects of medication as an ongoing process, and this does just that.

The National Network of Abortion Funds is a network of grassroots, local organizations that are funding abortion and building power to fight for cultural & political change. NNAF provides technical support and infrastructure for our member funds on the ground, and runs its own abortion fund, the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund. In 2014, NNAF and member organizations received 116,000 requests, and assisted 30,000 individuals seeking $3.5 million in funding for abortions, transportation assistance, translation, and childcare.

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