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Brava, Kristof: A Column All About Abortion and Misoprostol

August 4, 2010

The pill herself

Nick Kristof’s latest column is on the “miracle pill” misoprostol, which we over here at GAB have been heralding for quite some time, AHEM.  I have to give a big shout out to Kristof for writing a column devoted solely to abortion and the medication that induces it for, of course, it treads delicate ground.

Misoprostol, marketed as an ulcer med in most parts of the world, has long been used as an abortifacient on the side and the shielded nature of the drug’s use has been the key to its continued accessibility.  It is increasingly used to stop bleeding after childbirth in parts of the world where no other options to save women’s lives exist, and even to stop bleeding post-miscarriage in richer places like the US.

In addition, studies are now showing that miso can be used by women, on their own, to induce abortions safely and effectively up to a certain number of weeks.  This is revolutionary.  If done correctly and effectively, there is no need for a provider, no need for a hospital gown, no need for prying eyes and judgmental stares.  A woman is able to manage her fertility with complete and utter agency.

This is of course scary to so many.  But let the reins go, people, and let women take control of their own bodies for god’s sake.

The Times ran a story last year about Dominican women living in north Manhattan who preferred to get Miso shipped to them from relatives in the DR than pop down on the D Train to the local Planned Parenthood, where an abortion would be almost certainly affordable, and most definitely safe and easy to obtain.

There is something especially magical about taking a pill to induce an abortion rather than having some idiot quack make money off the procedure and cause some indelible injuries.  It is the ultimate reclamation.

I love that Kristof heralds Miso, but he should know that women have been using the pill for years and years… the issue, as I understand it, is that there is not enough easy and widespread access to clear directions/protocols for using the drug to induce.  That is, women hear that it can be used in such a way and take it without knowledge or directions…even more dangerous.

Women are already taking it upon themselves to reclaim their agency and their bodies, so we must catch up to provide all the information they might need to do so safely.

Even Kristof should get this memo, as he doubted recently that legalizing abortion would have much bearing on the rate of unsafe abortions in a country.  In addition to untrained providers and dirty instruments, which he cited as causes of botched and fatal abortions, women inducing without knowledge of how or what is also a major cause.  News flash, make medication abortion protocols accessible and clear, and this will most certainly contribute to a solution to that problem.

Kristof calls the increased use of misoprostol a “gynecological revolution,” a phrase that sort of makes my skin crawl for some reason.  Why not a feminist revolution, Nick?  It is a reclamation of one’s body, a taking the reins of one’s future, feminist ilk to the fullest.

2 Comments
  1. Amy Littlefield permalink*
    August 4, 2010 10:40 am

    Great post, Jessica. Miso — as we abortion counselors fondly refer to it — is used in this country both as part of a medication abortion and also as the first step of a second trimester abortion procedure. Some women in the United States may choose to have a medication abortion and pass their pregnancy at home, rather than having a surgical procedure. However, many women also prefer the procedure, when it is performed safely and is readily accessible. As you said, it is up to each woman to choose from the options that are available. You said: “There is something especially magical about taking a pill to induce an abortion rather than having some idiot quack make money off the procedure and cause some indelible injuries. It is the ultimate reclamation.” Careful! There are lots of great doctors out there — in many different countries — performing abortion procedures, and they deserve credit for the risks they take every day providing women with medical care. Also, there are downsides to the medication abortion, and it is not necessarily more inherently empowering for everyone. What’s empowering is the ability to make the choice — and I agree with you that women everywhere should have that right!

    • Jessica Mack permalink
      August 4, 2010 11:15 am

      Absolutely there are great docs out there and there are downsides to the option… But symbolically it is revolutionary in a way that no other option is. Kudos for being a counselor! I was for a long time and hope to do it again.

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