Local News

Abortion Pill Makes Its Way To Triangle Clinics

Posted July 16, 2001

— For years if you lived in this country, you had to travel overseas to get the abortion pill. Now all you have to do is drive down the street. The Planned Parenthood in Chapel Hill now offers the drug known to many people as RU-486.

Audrey Townsend says talking to her kids about abortion will probably be one of the toughest things she will ever do.

"I have two daughters. They're only 7 and 9, so hopefully we won't be talking about that too soon, but I'm glad they'll have options if they need them," she says.

The latest option is a drug called Mifepristone, known as RU-486 in France. Taken in the first 49 days of pregnancy, it causes a woman to have a spontaneous abortion.

"We are really proud to be on the forefront of women's health," says Planned Parenthood executive director Janet Colm.

After months of training its staff about the drug, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Chapel Hill is now one of the first facilities to prescribe Mifepristone.

"They don't want to have surgery if they don't need to. Other women really want to have the abortion in the privacy of their own home rather than in a clinic facility," Colm says.

"I think it's great. I definitely support it," says Chapel Hill resident Gretchen Whalen. "I'm really happy they're doing it. I think it shows a lot of courage and forethought."

Planned Parenthood acknowledges that not everyone will support the method. They just hope it will not intensify the already emotional debate surrounding abortion.

"Our hope is that Mifepristone will diffuse the abortion wars will make it possible for women to make their own responsible choices about reproductive health care without government and politicians interfering in that choice," Colm says.

Mifepristone is not a panacea. Planned Parenthood says one of the key components of prescribing the drug is counseling patients that the process will take several days and can be painful.

So far, the clinic in Chapel Hill says it has prescribed the drug for between 25 and 30 patients.


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