A non-surgical form of abortion using the drug methotrexate is gathering support from the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and Planned Parenthood of New York. During its annual meeting in San Francisco this weekend, NAF, the Washington-based group of abortion providers, planned to present instructions to doctors interested in offering methotrexate abortions. The drug has been approved by the FDA for arthritis and cancer conditions, but not yet for abortions. Using drugs for purposes other than those for which they were approved is both a legal and a common occurrence. The specific procedure NAF is encouraging doctors to explore involves an injection of methotrexate drug, which interferes with cell division of a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy, and is followed by application of the ulcer medicine misoprostol, which brings on contractions and expels the fetus, usually within a day.
Some doctors in New York have already begun using the non-surgical procedure which Planned Parenthood of New York hopes to begin offering by June, according to affiliate head Alexander Sanger. Abortion rights supporters say the use of the procedure could help decrease violence against abortion clinics because it requires no special equipment and can be performed in any doctor’s office. RU 486, another form of medical abortion, will soon be before the FDA for approval. Used by over 200,000 women, RU 486 is now available in France, Great Britain, China, and Sweden as a safe,effective method of early abortion.