Women’s health care opponents have targeted medication abortion since it became available in the United States more than a decade-and-a-half ago. As I think about this aggression, at least three tragic results come to mind.
First, these barriers are incredibly mean-spirited because many, many women managing unintended pregnancy truly appreciate medication abortion. They have told me how they feel more in control of their own care, and that medication abortion feels more “organic.”
Second, these barriers endanger public health. Medication abortion puts management of unintended pregnancy within reach of thousands more women, in no small part because it falls precisely within the expertise and scope of practice of nurse practitioners. Here in the American West, our historically more libertarian approach to health care regulation meant that nurse practitioners across Arizona were able to quickly incorporate this care into their practices in communities where abortion had never previously been available. In addition, medication abortion, as compared to surgical abortion, doesn’t require post-surgery recovery rooms, recovery room nursing staff or anesthesia. All of these factors help explain why medication abortion became the preference of half of all women seeking first-trimester abortion care at Planned Parenthood in Arizona.
The third tragic result is the public cynicism that is the unavoidable byproduct of opposition tactics that expose women to harm, advanced in the name of protecting women from harm. It is no wonder that many Americans tune out these debates when too much mainstream media has allowed medication abortion’s opponents to mischaracterize its safety. Here in Arizona, too few reporters have done the legwork to investigate the fallacious basis and dangerous potential impact of opponents’ efforts to force health care professionals to revive 15-year-old medication abortion protocols, ignoring how this health care has improved over the years. These improvements in care have simultaneously improved women’s lives.
Perhaps the first two phenomena — the emotional, psychological and physical approachability of medication abortion, combined with increasing accessibility — can explain the vehemence of the opposition to it among groups that oppose any health care that enables women to exert more control over their lives.
Planned Parenthood Arizona is proud to offer medication abortion. A woman needing to manage an unintended or ill-timed pregnancy has every right to the best, most up-to-date and respectful health care. For many women, that best option is medication abortion.