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Family Planning initiative Hamilton

Family Planning initiative Hamilton
1 November 2009

A debate has erupted recently over a proposal by Family Planning to provide early medical abortion using the abortion pill at its Hamilton clinic, with a view to expanding the service to other regions.

As a group that has been campaigning for humane abortion laws for nearly 40 years, Alranz is concerned about some of the misinformation being promulgated by those who oppose this important initiative – and we’re trying to set the record straight.

Fact Sheet on Early Medical Abortion

1 November 2009

Family Planning has applied to the Abortion Supervisory Committee for a license to provide an Early Medical Abortion service (within the first nine weeks of pregnancy only) at its Hamilton clinic, with a view to expanding to other clinics in New Zealand.

Early Medical Abortion is the use of pills (Mifegyne, also knownas RU486, followed by misoprostol) to cause a miscarriage early in the pregnancy. It is a safe alternative to a surgical abortion.

The abortion pill Mifegyne was approved for use in New Zealand by the Ministry of Health in August 2001 and has been used here for early medical abortion since April 2002.

Early medical abortion is currently available from eight facilities throughout New Zealand including hospitals and private clinics, six in the North Island and two in the South Island.

The earlier an abortion is carried out, the safer it is, so improving access is crucial. Offering this service in more clinics would give New Zealand women more and safer options. A study published in 2008 (“Geographical access to termination of pregnancy services in New Zealand” by Martha Silva and Rob McNeill) showed access to early abortion services is difficult for more than one-sixth of New Zealand women.

There has been a lot of this. Following are just a few highlights, but for a more detailed discussion, please visit our factsheet at:

(a). CLAIM: Mifegyne is a dangerous drug:
Mifegyne is a very safe drug when used correctly. The World Health Organisation in 2005 put the drug on its list of essential medicines for developing countries because of its role in preventing unsafe abortions. There have been 8 reported deaths in the U.S., and none in Europe, Scandinavia or Australia. The U.S. death rate of 0.8 per 100,000 medical abortions compares favourably with any number of medications, including Viagra (a rate of five male deaths for every 100,000 Viagra prescriptions) and paracetamol (150 accidental fatal overdoses each year in the U.S.). Having an early, safe medical abortion is approximately ten times safer than giving birth.

(b.) CLAIM: There will be more abortions:
This claim is not borne out by experience in other countries, or New Zealand itself. In Sweden, France and Great Britain, availability of medication abortion when abortion was already legal did not increase the number of abortions. And since the introduction of medical abortion in New Zealand, the numbers of abortions have not increased but have trended downward, from a peak of 18,511 in 2003 to 17,940 in 2008. (Source: Statistics NZ)


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