By PHILIP GOLDSTONE
On Sunday 11 August, The Age published an opinion piece by Melinda Tankard Reist, entitled ‘RU486 is not the ‘safe’ DIY method for women it is claimed to be.’ Marie Stopes International is very concerned about the misleading information she provides in relation to medical abortion in Australia.
Ms Tankard Reist begins her opinion piece by stating that RU486 is promoted as ‘do-it-yourself’.
While for most women the abortion process is completed at home, it is by no means “do-ityourself”. The medications used in medical abortion, Mifepristone Linepharma and GyMiso® must be prescribed by a certified medical practitioner who has undergone an additional training course.
This training course is endorsed by the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG).
The prescribing doctor is responsible for the care of the patient, including initial assessment and suitability of the method. In line with the Therapeutic Goods Australia (TGA) approved Product Information governing the use of these medications, the prescribing doctor must ensure access to 24-hour emergency care if required and provide follow up 14- 21 days after treatment. In addition, all women prescribed Mifepristone Linepharma and GyMiso® have access to a 24-hour Nurse Aftercare service provided by MS Health. This is clearly not “do-it-yourself” as claimed by MsTankard Reist.
Ms Tankard Reist cites four examples from women who have taken RU486 to procure a medical abortion who experienced cramping, nausea and loss of blood, amongst other side effects. Ms Tankard Reist appears to have cherry picked examples that support her opinion and this does not reflect most women’s opinion, given that 91% of women who have used medical abortion in Australia would recommend the method to a friend. While we acknowledge that these symptoms were clearly distressing for the women in question, and without negating their personal experience, these are all expected and well-documented side effects of a medical abortion, and are experienced to different degrees by different women.
As part of an observational study involving 13,345 women and published in the Medical Journal of Australia (September 2012), over 6,000 women from the study reported on their pain, bleeding and overall experience of medical abortion. Most women said the bleeding (83.8%) and pain/cramps (76.2%) and the overall experience (90.3%) was either as expected or better than expected. Most tellingly, 78.0% of respondents said they would use the method again. In line with the training, certified medical practitioners are required to provide the patient with information outlining the possible side effects of bleeding and cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, and fever and chills.