MEDICAL ABORTION – Medical abortion has the potential to change everything: it has made self-help abortion safe

This presentation by Marge Berer is based on the papers on medical abortion published this month in a Special Issue of the journal Contraception (links to all the papers can be found here). The papers are mainly qualitative studies on medical abortion pill use in Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burma-Thailand border, Chile, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Nepal, South Africa and UK. There is also a roundtable of health professionals’ views on what would happen if there was only medical abortion as a method, from Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico. There is also a review of research on the effectiveness of the method before 6 weeks of pregnancy; a commentary on self-use; and a discussion of where future research should go. This presentation summarises the main issues addressed in the journal articles from country level: WHO guidelines 2015 on who can provide medical abortion; self-use – very safe with good pills, good information and back-up if needed; bona fide websites for obtaining pills; the fear accompanying self-use in a clandestine setting; poor outcomes when women have no information on how to use the pills; self-help with feminist support in the second trimester; the ability of pharmacy workers to provide pills with simple training; the growth of telemedicine and safe abortion information hotlines; and the consequences for surgical methods. It was presented at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine on 7 February 2018.