Abortion pill use doubles in 12 months



By Anil Dawar

Demand for the abortion pill in Britain has reached an all time high with 10,000 pregnant women undergoing the procedure last year, the latest figures have revealed.

BPAS, formerly known as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said the number of women, which it treated with early medical abortion (EMA), rose from 56 per cent to 65 per cent of its case loadlast year.

Use of the drug, which can legally be prescribed only within nine weeks of conception, has taken off since BPAS began offering the abortion pill in 2003. That year, 3,500 women went to the organisation for the treatment. The following year the figure rose to 5,000 and that number doubled last year.

Ann Furedi, the chief executive of BPAS, said: "Women's demand for the early medical abortion service is at an all time high. We're glad that it has been recognised that the best option for women needing abortion is earlier access.

"With EMA it's the woman having the abortion rather than the doctor doing it to them. This is what makes it attractive to women, as opposed to a surgical abortion involving a general anaesthetic." She described the trend as a success for Labour's sexual health strategy.

About 77 per cent of 50,000 treatments carried out by BPAS last year were conducted on behalf of the National Health Service. The abortion pill works by blocking pregnancy hormones and making the uterus contract.

It is taken in two stages. The first oral dose of the drug called mifepristone is taken in a clinic. This blocks the pregnancy hormones. Two days later, the woman returns for a second drug which triggers the miscarriage. Patients are sent away after the second dose so the miscarriage takes place at home.

Supporters of the treatment say being sent home allows the woman greater control over what is a very personal process.

Opponents argue that the abortion pill poses serious health risks such as haemorrhaging when the foetus is expelled. And, psychological damage to the woman who is left alone at such a vulnerable moment.

Michaela Aston of the anti-abortion group Life said the treatment involved "a powerful and dangerous cocktail of drugs". She said that America's Food and Drug Administration was considering a ban on the drug because of safety concerns.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/05/29/npill29.xml



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