Debate is heating up in Australia about the use of mifepristone (RU-486) for medical (as opposed to surgical) abortions. Tony Abbott, who is clearly highly qualified to have an opinion about (a) medicine (he has an Economics/Law double degree) and (b) women (he quite obviously isn’t one), has decided that he should be more cautious than the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the World Health Organization and keep mifepristone off the shelves in Australia. Well, that’s his story, anyway. Unfortunately for Mr Abbott, people aren’t stupid and are quite able to see that his views on mifepristone are just thinly veiled anti-abortion views (which go hand in hand with his anti-stem cell research views).
All research and medical opinion points to mifepristone’s safety and efficacy in inducing termination, when combined with a prostaglandin analogue such as misoprostol (which is already available in Australia for other uses). From the reading I’ve done, I can’t see how medical abortion is any less safe than a spontaneous abortion. Both can lead to complications, such as incomplete abortion, which can be taken care of with medical help.
It’s insulting to doctors for Abbott to suggest that they would not be able to deal with the complications that can arise. If they can deal with a miscarriage, they can deal with a medical abortion too. And it’s insulting to suggest that they would prescribe mifepristone unwisely. Any doctor prescribing it would, of course, be there to deal with any adverse effects, same as they would be for any medication they prescribed. Rural doctors, in particular, should be offended at the implication that they can’t handle complications of pregnancy, when they can probably deal with them better than some over-specialised urban doctors. Should they be recommending that all female regional inhabitants relocate to cities for pregnancy care?
Abortion isn’t nice or pleasant but it’s a reality that some women find themselves facing for a variety of reasons. Whether the underlying cause is their own stupidity or the cruelty of rape, no woman should find herself facing the alternative of an unsafe abortion, or an unwanted pregnancy that will produce an unwanted child, who might never receive adequate care or love. And medical abortion makes it easier — some might say too easy, but I feel that the option needs to be there for women in remote areas, or from communities where abortion is not acceptable, and going to the doctor for a pill and pretending that you’ve had a miscarriage might be your only option.
It’s just mind-boggling that this decision is in the hands of one man who’s clearly biased, rather than where it belongs: in the hands of each individual woman.
Some time after Plato, everyone accepted the principle that lawmakers do not represent scholastic or technical excellence. Tony Abbott’s stance as lawmaker vs doctors’ expertice continues this three thousand year old tradition.