FDA Considers Nonprescription Abortion and Birth Control Pills

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The US Food and Drug Administration's consideration of a measure that would allow birth control pills to be purchased over-the-counter may not go far enough for some women's groups.

They want the abortion pill to be that accessible too.

"We would like emergency contraceptives to be on the shelves, but if pharmacists can provide them ... that's still a big improvement," said Elizabeth Carendish, director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, according to a Reuters Health report.

The FDA heard arguments last week from several women's health agencies advocating the sale of Mifepristone - RU486, the so-called morning-after pills, as nonprescription drugs. The pills are reportedly most effective at aborting and preventing pregnancies if taken within 12 hours of unprotected sex.

Carendish claimed the side effects of the morning-after pill are "less dangerous than either pregnancy or childbirth," while one official with the American Society for Emergency Contraceptives asked the FDA to allow individuals of any age to purchase the drugs. Population Council and Family Health International officials are also reportedly supporting a nonprescription drug label for the abortion pill, but did not return telephone calls for comment.

The request for easy access to RU-486 comes at a time when the FDA is already debating another pregnancy prevention measure - whether birth control pills should be sold as nonprescription drugs.

The controversy surrounding the morning-after contraceptive method is not confined to the U.S. In France, high court officials recently ruled RU-486 could no longer be distributed to school-age girls. A defiant French government, however, responded by saying it would ensure distribution of the pills, regardless of the court ruling.

An estimated 16 million American women currently use birth control pills, which have been available for the past 40 years. RU-486 has been used to abort an estimated 200,000 pregnancies worldwide since its introduction in 1988.