Survey Finds Mifepristone Has Not Dramatically Changed Abortion Landscape

One year after the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug mifepristone for use in medical abortions, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has released the results of a national survey that shows the availability of the drug has not greatly increased the pool of physicians providing abortions in the United States.

The Kaiser study reported that six percent of gynecologists and one percent of general practice physicians have provided the non-surgical abortion option since manufacturer Danco Laboratories began distributing the drug two months after receiving FDA approval. At that time, advocates on both sides of the abortion issue had predicted the drug — which is also known as RU-486 — would dramatically change the nature of abortion services.

"In the year since mifepristone was approved, neither the direst predictions of abortion opponents nor the highest hopes of abortion rights activists appear to have materialized," said Tina Hoff, vice president of Public Health Information and Partnerships at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "While it may still, the availability of mifepristone in this country has not yet significantly increased the number of physicians offering abortions. It has, however, provided women seeking abortions another option."

Among doctors who have not provided mifepristone, 40 percent of gynecologists and 37 percent of general practice physicians said they had not offered the pill because they are "personally opposed" to the non-surgical abortion procedure. However, 16 percent of gynecologists and 7 percent of general practice physicians who have not yet provided the drug say they are likely to begin offering it in the coming year. The majority of doctors who are not personally opposed to the practice say they have not prescribed the drug mainly because patients haven't asked for it.

To download the complete report (23 pages, PDF), visit: http://www.kff.org/content/2001/3170/SurveyToplinesNew.pdf.

"Few Offering Mifepristone One Year After FDA Approval; Indications That Number May Increase In Next Year" Kaiser Family Foundation Press Release 09/24/2001.