A blueprint for moving medication abortion over the counter

In a recent review article and Guardian op-ed, ANSIRH’s Daniel Grossman, MD outlined the necessary steps and compelling reasons to make medication abortion available over the counter.

In the review article, Dr. Grossman and his co-authors analyze the existing evidence to assess whether the drug combination most commonly used for medication abortion at 10 weeks of gestation and earlier would meet the FDA’s criteria for over-the-counter sale. They find that although the existing body of data is promising, further research is needed. For example, more must be done to prove that women can accurately self-date their pregnancies, and in turn, determine if medication abortion is the appropriate method for them.

In his Guardian op-ed, Dr. Grossman notes that regulation is not the only barrier to expanding medication abortion access. America’s outdated perception of self-induced abortion inhibits progress, too. That perception, encapsulated in the symbolism of the coat hanger, is that self-abortion is always dangerous and should never be available to women without medical supervision. In reality, abortion drugs have modernized self-abortion and can be more than 95 percent effective at causing a complete abortion.

There are many reasons women may choose a self-administered medication abortion, whether because they prefer the comfort of their home to a clinic or they live many miles from the nearest abortion provider. Although its over-the-counter sale may be years away, there are other impactful ways we can and should ease access to medication abortion in the meantime.