Local clinic branches opt not to prescribe abortion pill Mifeprex

Erin Madsen

Women in search of the abortion pill Mifeprex, known as RU-486 in Europe, will have to look beyond two major Twin Cities clinic branches for the prescription.
All Park Nicollet clinics and Allina Health clinics across Minnesota have decided not to prescribe Mifeprex — approved for sale by the Food and Drug Administration four months ago — due to clinical and moral disapproval.
According to a statement released by Park Nicollet officials, their clinics’ care methods have never supported abortion because of religious affiliations and the division it creates among physicians.
“The Hospital comes from an affiliation with the Methodist Church. Considering our own history and the history of the country where, prior to 1973, abortion was illegal, we have never performed elective abortions,” the statement read.
Jeremiah Whitten, a Park Nicollet spokesman, said the statement was “a clinical decision made by the Clinical Board of Governors.”
Whitten called the decision a “democratic process” involving Clinical Board members and the physicians who elect them.
The clinic’s statement also said although physicians and other medical professionals may disagree, Park Nicollet’s decision was a collective one with patients’ interests in mind.
“Our internal community at Park Nicollet reflects the broader community outside our walls. It would be difficult to find consensus on this issue,” the statement read. “It has not been resolved in the political or public arenas. Dividing our teams on this issue would impair our ability to serve our community.”
Whitten said the clinics did not consider the possibility of losing patients when making the decision.
“I don’t think (losing patients) even entered into (the decision), plus we’re making a recommendation, and then they’re still our patients,” he said.
Whitten added Park Nicollet doctors will continue to make referrals for those patients they are unable to serve with abortion procedures and RU-486 prescriptions.
Boynton Health Service operates under a similar policy. It will not issue the drug but will give patients referrals to other clinics.
Jennifer Syltie, spokeswoman for Allina Health Clinics, said the Allina branches will also continue to advise their patients with referrals for procedures the clinics have never provided.
“We do not perform surgical abortions and we don’t perform chemical abortions now,” Syltie said.
“This is not a pro-life or pro-choice decision,” she added. “It was not debated in that manner.”
Syltie said the decision was made to spare physicians from compromising moral and ethical positions and to avoid the redesign of business measures the distribution would create.
After the prescription is dispensed, patients are expected to schedule three follow-up visits with their doctors, and this would call for a reconstruction of the business plan in Allina’s system.
“The follow-up care for RU-486 is quite extensive,” she added.
Concerns that doctors would be unable to see those patients for three visits after prescription activation and that, in cases of emergency, the physician would be unavailable for consultation, became major factors in the decision process, Syltie said.
“This is a very difficult decision,” Syltie concluded. “It was made out of respect for our physicians.”
Since the September FDA approval of Mifeprex, physicians at Allina Health Clinics have received mail from a pro-life organization from Denton, Texas, which asked doctors about their involvement with abortion procedures.
“If you are aware of anyone who is currently involved, or plans to be involved, in either surgical or chemical abortion, we are asking that you let us know,” the mailing read.
Syltie said the mailings contributed a minimal amount to the decision made by Allina’s Senior Medical Leadership Council, which consists of a medical director, executive staff and physicians.
“Certainly (the mail) was a factor — it’s threatening,” she said. “I don’t think that played a major role in the decision — it was a scare tactic.”
The only clinics who reportedly plan to offer Mifeprex prescriptions in Minnesota are the six surgical abortion clinics. Prescription costs for Mifeprex will be covered by several state health insurers.
Officials for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota did not return phone calls Monday.

Erin Madsen welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612)627-4070 x3223