Abortion drug may not come to Boynton

Max Rust

Although the Federal Drug Administration recommended the approval of the controversial drug RU-486, the outlook for getting the abortion pill on campus looks doubtful.
The Student Health Advisory Committee held a forum Wednesday afternoon at Boynton Health Service where approximately 30 people sat in on a discussion about how RU-486 works. Audience members then talked about whether or not the pill should be offered through Boynton.
“Based on what we know, it is likely that we’ll recommend that RU-486 will not be made available through Boynton,” said Kim McCoy, the chairwoman for the committee. The health advisory group will make its formal recommendation to Boynton next Tuesday.
“For good medical practice,” explained committee member and forum speaker Adam Dveris, “you can’t have the RU-486 available without having surgical abortion available for backup.”
Some medical abortions — abortions induced by RU-486 — do not work and eventually require surgical abortions.
Currently, a student cannot undergo an abortion on campus. Boynton administrators based their current abortion policy on data from a 1992 study. Boynton Director Edward Ehlinger said that it is “not economically in the best interest of the students to have us offer abortions.”
If the health center were to offer abortion procedures, the cost would be about $405, based on a hypothetical average of 80 abortions performed a year.
The price includes the cost of surgical instruments and many other expenses required to perform the procedure.
“(Boynton) is currently operating at a half-a-million-dollar deficit this year,” said Dveris. “It’s economically infeasible.”
Boynton does, however, present pregnant women who come in for counseling with all available options, including referrals to local abortion clinics.
“We will support whatever the legal options are for women,” said Ehlinger. “As health care providers, we’re to be supportive of individuals. When people make a choice, we must support that choice.”
Ehlinger also said that Boynton’s final decision on whether or not to prescribe RU-486 will be heavily influenced by the student health committee’s recommendation.
“We really have a lot of faith in SHAC,” he said. “They represent the population that we’re supposed to serve.”
Legal requirements, contracts Boynton has with other health care insurance companies and University policies will also influence Boynton administrators’ decision.
But even without taking these factors into account, a medical abortion using the drug costs about the same as a traditional surgical abortion.
Dr. Mark Tanz, an assistant University professor of obstetrics and gynecology, was on hand at the forum to explain how the drug works.
According to Tanz, the pill must be taken within 63 days after a woman’s last menstrual period. RU-486 then “fools the body” into thinking that it is receiving progesterone, a nourishing hormone that is produced in a woman’s ovaries.
The fertilized egg then does not get enough nourishment. Three to seven days later, a second drug is administered orally or vaginally that causes the uterus to contract and eject the egg.
“There aren’t any real side effects of RU-486,” said Tanz. However, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting are side effects of prostaglandin, the second drug.