While the abortion debate continues worldwide, even in countries where it has long been legal, new drugs and online telemedicine services could provide access to safe abortion beyond borders and laws.
Since the early days of the birth-control movement, scientific research and development have contributed significantly to increase the range of options available for managing human fertility and giving women autonomy over their own bodies. One of the most remarkable changes in recent years is medical abortion, a non-surgical method for terminating pregnancies. It involves the use of prescription drugs such as Misoprostol and Mifepristone (also known as RU-486), which was developed in France and approved for use in 1989.
Long before the scientific interest in these drugs, however, it was women themselves who first discovered their potential. In Brazil, where abortion is legal only in cases of rape and to save the woman’s life, misoprostol was registered for the treatment of ulcers. The label warned women not to use the pills in case of pregnancy. Understanding the implications, women started to take misoprostol to induce abortions and its use quickly spread.
Medical abortion is a common practice today and has been shown to be effective for 98.3% for women in early pregnancies. The procedure mimics miscarriage and is preferred by many women on the grounds that it is less invasive. Given the low risk of complications and high success rate of medical abortions, the World Health Organisation has stated that they do not need to take place in a hospital or clinic.
Home use of abortion pills became legal in Scotland and Wales in 2017, and in August 2018, England followed suit. The US organisation Planned Parenthood states that: