Activists want limits lifted on newly legal abortion drug

The president of the company that is the Canadian importer of the abortion drug Mifegymiso (also known as RU-486), filed a supplementary application with Health Canada in August in order to ask the government to lift restrictions on the drug.

Celopharma Inc., the Canadian importer of Mifegymiso, is asking to expand the gestational age limits for this chemical abortion as well as to change the current regulations around administering the drug.

Mifegymiso, which Health Canada allowed to begin prescribing on July 1, is an abortifacient drug that is comprised of two tablets: mifepristone and mifoprostol. Mifepristone is taken first, and blocks the hormone called progesterone, which deprives the fetus of nutrition, starving it to death. Mifoprostol, which is taken one or two days later, causes the contraction of the uterus, which expels the baby.

The current regulations to use Mifegymiso in Canada say only doctors can prescribe the drug and the first dose of the drug must be taken in the presence of a physician. The physician is also required to take a mandatory online education and registration program.

Paula Gerbfarb, the president of Celopharma, told The Huffington Post, “This wasn’t something that we, as the importer and distributor, had any say on.” According to Health Canada, the reason that the first dose must be taken in the presence of a physician is because that is how it was administered in the clinical trials.

Advocates of lifting the restrictions say women should have a right to take the pill in the comfort of their own home so that they can determine when their abortion happens. They also say that these restrictions are oppressive as it is the medical system’s way of saying that women cannot be trusted because they cannot take the drug on their own.

Mary-Ellen Douglas, national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim that if Health Canada and feminist activists really cared about women’s health, they would want to keep the restrictions. Douglas explained that in the past, individuals who advocate for women’s rights would stand outside of the Campaign Life Coalition office and chant “Campaign Life your name’s a lie, you don’t care if women die,” when in actuality, they are the ones who do not care if women die. Douglas suggested that they look at the facts of how many deaths occurred from the drug in other countries that have it available. Numerous studies from around the globe have proven that this abortifacient drug is dangerous, which is the reason for the limits.

This drug comes with extreme risks and may cause severe side-effects and complications which include cramping, nausea, vomiting, heavy bleeding, heart attacks, and death. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that in 2011, at least 14 women had died after taking Mifegymiso.

Douglas said the logical conclusion should not be making the drug available with restrictions, but banning it altogether.

Health Minister Jane Philpott said she is open to reviewing the restrictions this fall.

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