Abortion talk for pro-life and pro-choice

It doesn’t matter where you sit on the spectrum of abortion. You do you, but we all need facts.

Last month, Texas began banning abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy. Planned Parenthood estimates they turned away 85-90% of women mostly because they were too far along in their pregnancies. With abortion a 'hot topic' in the news lately, I thought I'd use this column to add a medical perspective to the discussion.

First, what does “you’re six weeks pregnant” mean?

Doctors count pregnancy backward – it starts from the first day of your last actual period. Let’s pretend your periods are a perfect 28 days, and you track it with Fitbit fervor. The first time you’re clued in that you’re pregnant – that is, the first day you miss your period – you’re already 4 weeks pregnant.

For the rest of us mortals, the average time for pregnancy awareness is 5.5 weeks.

Second, early abortion can be done safely and easily with pills – at home.

Medication abortion is a two-drug combo: mifepristone and misoprostol. They mimic natural miscarriage and can safely terminate early pregnancy over 90% of the time. They’re legal, FDA-approved since 2000. Millions of U.S. women have used them. The serious complication rate is less than 1%. Because of their safety, efficacy, and relatively low cost, they are on the World Health Organization's Model List of Essential Medicines.

In the U.S., less than half of the abortions are done by medications; in Sweden, over 90% of abortions are.

In this part of Ohio, abortion services are provided up to 21 weeks of gestation. From my limited research, the fees start at $465 for early pregnancy – and can go up to thousands of dollars. Most services will work with people with limited finances. Some insurances reimburse, but not Medicaid.

I need to mention a popular online site: Aid Access. It’s founded by a Dutch physician whose organizations provide reproductive education and services internationally. You fill out a health questionnaire. If you qualify, medications will be mailed to you. The good parts: Little fuss and low cost ($105-$150). My concerns: It needs backup. The drugs, I am sure, are legit. If used within 9 weeks of pregnancy, they’ll work. But in the rare cases of complications, it’s tough to find immediate medical help if you don’t have an established health provider locally. Also given the abortion legal minefield, there are potential legal implications.

Third, emergency contraception (morning-after pills) are not abortion pills.

Taken within 3 to 5 days after unprotected (or any kind of oops) sex, they can dramatically reduce your chance of getting pregnant. If you do become pregnant – or are pregnant and accidentally take them – they will not harm or interfere with pregnancy.

We have three different kinds: Levonorgestrel (Plan B One-Step, etc. $10 to $44), ulipristal acetate (ella, $41-$48), and IUD.  Two preparations of levonorgestrel – Next Choice One Dose ($10-$13) and Plan B One-Step ($40-$44) – are over-the-counter. Teens can buy them.

A final interesting fact to chew on: According to the medical journal The Lancet, the rate of abortion is similar between countries with the strictest abortion laws and the most liberal: 34 and 37 per 1,000 women annually, respectively.

We all want to reduce abortions, but we need real solutions.

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Volume 13, Issue 19, Posted 9:59 AM, 10.05.2021