March 3, 2016

“Medical Abortions”

Earlier today, I listened to a discussion on the Diane Rehm Show about the Texas Supreme Court case involving restrictions on abortion clinics. I was struck by the distinction made between “surgical abortions” and abortions induced by taking pills, which are generally referred to as “medical abortions.”

Abortion pill
Abortions performed by surgical means (e.g, D&C), seem aptly and, even in the rhetorical minefield of women’s health issues, objectively named. It is not clear to me that the term “medical abortions” favors either side in debates over abortion generally. On the other hand, it hardly seems a precise designation. One certainly hopes, for example, that a surgical abortion is indeed a medical procedure—performed by a real doctor in a clinical environment—rather than, say, performed by a woman at home with knitting needles.

We should have a more specific term for abortions effected by the likes of RU-486. I suggest that, rather than “medical abortion,” we should use a term like “medicinal abortion” or “pharmaceutical  abortion.”

I wonder how “medical abortion” became synonymous with abortion-by-pill.

Update, 3/30/2016. The FDA has just changed the label instructions for RU-486 (mifepristone). The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement that refers to “medication abortion,” which is surely a more precise term than “medical abortion.”

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