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Women's Health

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The Abortion Pill Is Here, but Few May Actually See It

WebMD Health News

Oct. 6, 2000 -- In the days following the approval last week of the abortion pill, RU-486, many already are pondering the possible impact of an option other than the usual one, surgical abortion. Indeed, women who wish to end a pregnancy now have another choice, but how likely is it that they will be able to find a doctor willing to offer it to them?

In the first of three scheduled presidential debates this week, Texas Gov. George W. Bush said he feared the decision to approve RU-486 -- which will be sold as Mifeprex -- would lead to more abortions. But most experts predict doctors already performing surgical abortions will make up the large majority who will soon use the pill method, also known as a medical abortion.

"Medical abortion is much more difficult to provide [than surgical abortion]," says Mitchell Creinin, MD, who has been performing medical abortions for more than seven years in research studies. Unlike surgical abortion, which requires only one visit, a medical abortion requires three. It also requires a lot of counseling, sometimes at an additional visit, because of the lengthy explanation about the procedure and its alternatives.

For those reasons and other burdens placed on doctors, Creinin, an associate professor and director of family planning at the University of Pittsburgh, tells WebMD, "you are not going to see as many women in the U.S. seeking out this alternative as you have perhaps in other countries. Women in the U.S. are more interested in something that is going to be done and over with."

The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is doing much of the training of doctors that will be needed for them to use Mifeprex. Vicki Saporta, executive director of NAF, tells WebMD that 1,800 health care providers have been trained in the use of what they are terming "the early option pill." Saporta confirms that while some doctors not currently providing abortion have gone through the training, most have been physicians who are already providing abortions. Currently, the vast majority of all abortions are performed in abortion clinics as opposed to private doctors' offices.

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