Thursday 9 May 2013

Expanded, NOT Restricted, Abortion Options

Canada's lawless abortion regime rightfully stands as a beacon to progressive countries struggling to escape patriarchal attitudes to women's health and reproductive freedom.

But as we've noted recently (here and here), Australia has grabbed the patriarchal bull by the RU486 (aka 'home abortion pill') horns.

Pioneered by Dr Caroline de Costa, the medication is set to be added to Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory list, which would lower the cost from $300-400 to $36 for woman who can pay and $12 for women on benefits.

(For those interested, there is -- of course -- a political angle. When Tony Abbott, former seminarian nicknamed the Mad Monk, was Minister of Health in a previous government, he fought tooth and nail to keep RU486 out of the country. Now that he is Liberal leader of the opposition, feminists and pro-choicers are dredging up that unsavory past to paint him in a light unfriendly to women.)

Meanwhile, in Canada, RU486, or mifepristone, remains unapproved by Health Canada.

In fact, the most recent reference I can find to it in medical literature is a paper from 2005 by Jennifer LaLiberté.

Mifepristone has been around for more than 20 years. It is considered to be very safe and is the preferred method of medical abortion in many countries, most notably France.
Use of mifepristone (Mifeprex®) has been associated with fewer deaths than Tylenol or Viagra, and is safer than full term pregnancy.
Antis love to cite the rare instances of complications and really really love to cite the ickyness of the process. In fact, some like Big Nursie Stanek, absolutely revel in descriptions of cramps, bleeding, and pain.

But, frankly, only people who believe women's reproductive organs mirror Barbie's smooth plastic parts, think that being female is all sugar and spice.

Who among us hasn't has a narsty bloody crampy period and wondered just what was happening? Is this a miscarriage, we wonder? We don't know, do we? We just deal with it.

Today, on March of the Feti Day, as hundreds (of bussed-in Catholic schoolchildren) gather on Parliament Hill to shriek abuse and hatred at women, it seems appropriate to ask: just what the hell is going on with RU486 in Canada?

It has many benefits: safety, lower complication rates than other medical abortions, privacy, and -- in particular -- cost. In a universal healthcare system, it is the duty of policy makers to satisfy patients while minimizing cost.

A recent news story about Health Canada may shed some light on our federal health regulatory body.

In mid-April this year, there was a badly bungled recall of birth control pills.

Apotex, the maker, discovered that some lots of pills contained not one week of sugar-pills (included to insure that women take a pill every day) but TWO weeks, significantly raising the chances of unintended pregnancy in women who thought they had that covered.

Apotex informed Health Canada of the problem last Thursday. However, Health Canada and Apotex failed to inform the general public of the problem until last Monday, nearly a week after the problem was first identified. A Health Canada spokeswoman explained that an urgent recall was not issued immediately because the problem with the pill was not considered life-or-death. Instead, the department and Apotex issued a “Class II” recall, reserved for products that may cause temporary health issues, or where the probability of a serious health impact is low.

In other words, risk of accidental pregnancy was not deemed serious enough to trigger an urgent product recall.

The department upgraded the recall on Monday to a Class I recall after realizing some women who shouldn’t become pregnant for medical reasons could be affected.

Health Canada spokeswoman Blossom Leung said in an e-mail the recall assessment takes health impacts into account, not “lifestyle impacts” such as unplanned pregnancy, which is why the urgent product recall was only issued Monday.
A department that considers an unplanned pregnancy a 'lifestyle impact' and not, for some women, a devastating health risk, is -- one might say -- a tad tone-deaf to the reproductive needs of Canadian women.

And we're not the only ones wondering what's up. Here, pharmacist and lawyer, John Griess, writing about OxyContin compares the US FDA's approach to Health Canada's. The FDA would not approve a generic form of OxyContin, considered to be hella more dangerous to addicts than the reformulated version, while Health Canada saw no problemo with it.
Health Canada’s focus on bioequivalence with no mention of its duty to “protect the public by minimizing risks” highlights the difference between the two organizations, and indicates why clinicians and Canadians should be concerned about what’s going on at Health Canada.
So, as fetus fetishists stomp their widdle feet on Parliament Hill today, we ask: What is Health Canada doing to provide Canadian women and families with the widest possible choice of legal, safe, preferred, and cost-effective medications to terminate pregnancy?

After all, isn't that the most rational (i.e. non-religious) argument fetus fetishists have? That they don't want to pay for 'lifestyle issues' of slutty women?

Seems Health Canada doesn't want to either, even at a greatly reduced cost to taxpayers.

We at DJ! suggest that women raise the issue with their doctors and OB/GYNs. Also, we should inform ourselves about the safety and efficacy of mifepristone. We will need to counter the lies of the antis if/when this issue ever comes up in Canada.

ADDED: Gail of ROAR in PEI has some trenchant thoughts.

ADDED: Jarrah of Gender Focus adds her thoughts. There is no reason this is not available to Canadian women.


MgS said...

Given that the Supreme Court recently denied sex worker groups intervenor status in a case that directly involves them, while granting intervenor status to Gwen Landolt's "REAL Women" organization, it seems quite probable that Health Canada has been given orders from the PMO to not engage with anything to do with RU-486 on the grounds that it will piss off the fetus fetishist base that Harper panders to.

fern hill said...

Oh noes! The CONtempt Party is controlling supposedly non-political entities!??!1!?

Pseudz said...

Fern, was it you who alerted me to a study that reported on the chronic misapprehension of politicians about the level of conservatism of their constituents? Their sloth, ignorance, and venality tries to masquerade as probity and caution. They make a self-righteously intoned wreck out of false rectitude.

When that's coupled with a rush toward the Death-By-Starvation of Evidence, anything is possible and if they have much more success . . . if we don't mount a defense, most of us will be deemed criminals/terrists.

fern hill said...

Yeah, I think so, but it will take some digging to find the link. I'll get on it later.

Hockey, hockey, hockey.

fern hill said...

Here's a link to the study on politicians' overestimating the conservativeness of their consitutents:

MgS said...

I think the reality is that most constituents are going to be "conservative" about making changes arbitrarily. Most constituents are not, however, CONservative politically.

fern hill said...

Dingdingding! MgS is our 10,000th commenter! Prize is called for.

deBeauxOs said...

Prize for DAMMIT JANET! or MgS?

I think DJ! gets the prize for drawing quality folks who comment here, like MsG.

And all 10,000 comments by folks (who aren't the blogposts' authors) deserve a prize!

fern hill said...

Both! All! Prizes for everyone!

Let's slice up the cat bread and hand it out.

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