WomanCare Global announced today that mifepristone has been added to their reproductive healthcare portfolio.

Through an agreement with Linepharma, WomanCare Global will provide sales, marketing, provider training and distribution of mifepristone in seven European and seven African countries. Linepharma’s mifepristone is labeled for use as a single 200mg tablet of mifepristone to perform medical abortion in conjunction with a prostaglandin, in compliance with the World Health Organization’s recommendation.

Linepharma’s mifepristone is manufactured in Europe and is currently approved in five E.U. countries. The planned distribution of mifepristone by WomanCare Global in 14 countries will ensure that close to 55 million women will have another safe, quality product to manage their reproductive health.

Please read the entire press release at http://ow.ly/8W2Wz

August 2, 2011, 5:53 pm 

by Ramya Kumar
The absence of safe abortion services in the public sector has obvious implications for both gender and class. First abortion, a health service required only by women, continues to be criminalized and second “safe” abortion services are currently only accessible to women who can afford them in the private sector. With the clamp down on Marie Stopes clinics that had provided abortion services at relatively low cost for more than 20 years, medical abortion has become an alternative that women in Sri Lanka have begun to explore. The drugs used for medical abortion, mifepristone and misoprostol, are reportedly available in private hospitals and pharmacies across the country at exorbitant prices. Both of them are currently unregistered for use in Sri Lanka although misoprostol was recently considered for registration. Their use in Sri Lanka is therefore technically illegal. Further, since Article 303 of the Penal Code states that abortion is permitted only to save a woman’s life, the use of these drugs for medical abortion (except to save a woman’s life) is unlawful in Sri Lanka. Why are these drugs not registered although widely available? And why is there no public debate on abortion law reform in Sri Lanka today?
Swarna: a forgotten statistic
The case of a woman, who I will call Swarna, illustrates some of the social problems associated with unsafe abortion. Swarna was admitted to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) of a provincial hospital where I worked as a medical officer. Swarna, a resident of the Uva province, had three children, was poor and could neither read nor write. She had been transferred from a base hospital where she was suspected to have had a reaction to blood transfusion. While family planning services were provided free of charge through the public sector to Swarna, her social situation made her vulnerable to an unintended pregnancy. Criminalized abortion and the fear of law enforcement prevented Swarna from accessing post-abortion care until she was very ill and when she did she strongly denied having had any such intervention. The consultant obstetrician who had seen a similar clinical picture in other women who were admitted after unsafe abortion, decided Swarna should undergo a lifesaving surgical procedure in spite of her denying that she had had an induced abortion. Swarna remained in the SICU for two weeks with multi-organ failure and was lucky to have survived. Swarna and other such women who face the consequences of unsafe abortion are not included in the tally of deaths from unsafe abortion because they survive. When we talk about low mortality from unsafe abortion in Sri Lanka, the stories of Swarna and many others like her are overlooked or forgotten.
Global abortion politics
Abortion is a contentious issue globally. Intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) are restricted in their dealings with the issue due to strong pro-life lobbies in powerful countries like the United States that impose funding restrictions on providing abortion services. The International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (1994) that was endorsed by Sri Lanka and many other countries incorporated a rights perspective on population issues including reproductive health. Although it was considered a watershed for reproductive rights, this document did not address abortion in any significant way. While its focus is on the prevention of unintended pregnancies and implementation of post-abortion care, it states that safe abortion services should be provided in countries where abortion is not against the law. This leaves women in countries like Sri Lanka, where abortion laws are very restrictive, with limited options.
Situation in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is doing extremely well in terms of maternal health. We have been able to achieve reductions in maternal mortality without addressing unsafe abortion. In fact our maternal mortality rate is the lowest in the South Asian region. Research shows that there is a high prevalence of abortion (a 1998 estimate suggests 650 abortions per day) and that most women resort to abortion to limit or space their families. In 2006, unsafe abortion became the second highest cause of maternal mortality in the country. While unsafe abortion was identified to be a problem on a review on maternal mortality published by the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition in 2009, the strategies they recommended included improving access to family planning and improving post-abortion care. There was no recommended strategy for abortion law reform. It is perhaps surprising that a government that shows much commitment to providing healthcare would leave unsafe abortion off the health agenda. Why does abortion law reform remain on the backburner? And could the potential use of misoprostol for medical abortion have influenced the recent decision on misoprostol registration?
Medical abortion and misoprostol
The WHO recommended regime for medical abortion includes two medications: mifepristone and misoprostol. While the combined regime has a success rate of over 95% in the first 9 weeks of gestation, misoprostol has been used alone for medical abortion in many settings with success rates roughly between 85 and 90%. Although less effective, it is used alone for medical abortion because it is cheaper and also because in many countries misoprostol is registered and freely available while mifepristone is not. The WHO does not recommend misoprostol alone regimens for medical abortion claiming the evidence for such a recommendation is inadequate.
Misoprostol is listed in the WHO Essential Medicines List (EML) for many indications. In 2005, misoprostol was listed for labour induction and with mifepristone for medical abortion, where legal and culturally acceptable (other drugs on the WHO EML do not include notes on cultural acceptability). In 2009, the EML listed misoprostol for incomplete abortion and this year in May for post-partum hemorrhage. Since misoprostol was initially developed for the treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers in 1988, it had been registered without controversy in many countries before its use for medical abortion was discovered. Therefore, today it is widely used by women for abortion in countries where it is registered but abortion laws restrictive. Such use without access to information could result in incorrect dosing with adverse consequences such as increasing rates of incomplete abortion and the occurrence of birth defects in fetuses that are not aborted.
Registration of misoprostol in Sri Lanka
Why was misoprostol, a drug with several obstetric indications, not registered in Sri Lanka? In my study, I focused on the misoprostol policy because it is the only policy related to abortion currently under review. Ten medically qualified experts engaged in women’s health policymaking and four women’s rights advocates with expertise in the social sciences and law were interviewed for this study.
Misoprostol (and mifepristone) is available although unregistered in Sri Lanka and is being widely used in the private sector. An application to register misoprostol was submitted to the National Drug Regulatory Authority (NDRA) by a pharmaceutical company in 2010. The decision to approve a drug for registration lies with the Drugs Evaluation Subcommittee of the National Drug Regulation Authority (NDRA) which consists of medical specialists from various fields and pharmacists. The misoprostol situation was described by one participant to be “tricky” because obstetricians have access to the drug through representatives of pharmaceutical companies who supply the drug to them directly. The drug is also believed to be smuggled into the country from India and Pakistan in “suitcases”. The NDRA wished to register the drug for regulatory purposes and quality assurance because it was known to be widely available in the country. The obstetricians probably wanted it registered so that they could use it legally in their obstetric practice.
The NDRA sought the opinion of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (SLCOG) on registering misoprostol due to a conflict of opinion within the Drugs Evaluation Subcommittee. In November 2010, the SLCOG recommended misoprostol be registered with restrictions to be used only in the public sector. However, when the Drugs Evaluation Subcommittee met a month later, they could not reach a consensus on registration due to opposition from within the subcommittee. While complications of misoprostol (specifically maternal deaths from using misoprostol for labour induction) had been discussed at the meeting, the potential for using misoprostol for medical abortion had not come up for discussion. Eventually it was decided to keep the decision pending and the decision is still pending today.
Implications on health policymaking
The policy decision on misoprostol appears to have been a result of an undemocratic process based on obscure social values held by a few members of the Drugs Evaluation Subcommittee at the NDRA. Under these circumstances, it seems unlikely that misoprostol will be registered anytime soon.
It would be unfair to say that this policy making process exemplifies health policymaking in general in Sri Lanka. The controversial nature of this drug is likely to have influenced the process. But note that this was a closed process with little input from nonmedical experts. Even the recommendation of the SLCOG, the professional body of obstetricians and gynaecologists in the country, was overlooked. There was no contribution from women’s advocacy groups to the decision making process. Many policymakers in the sample believed that the policy decision on misoprostol was influenced by its possible use for medical abortion.
I would argue that the reason misoprostol registration became controversial in Sri Lanka was because both the NDRA and the SLCOG wished to register the drug for different reasons. Health policymaking is controlled by the Ministry of Health; the public has little access to information on who and how these decisions are made.
Implications for abortion policy
The Ministry of Health’s strategy to address unsafe abortion focuses on preventing unintended pregnancies and providing post-abortion care (PAC). Arguably, this narrow focus may be justified given the restrictive abortion legislation in Sri Lanka. Under these circumstances, one would expect a dynamic family planning programme and accessible sexual and reproductive health education and services. One would also anticipate the institution of effective PAC. However there is no evidence to show that this is happening.
Participants expressed concerns about contraceptive services targeting only married women and the absence of a state sponsored comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education program for adolescents. There is in fact a complete silence on sexual health in existing policy documents. Further, participants expressed concerns about the inadequacy of existing PAC services and the stigma and discrimination experienced by women who seek PAC. The interviews also demonstrated gaps in research on unsafe abortion, specifically current prevalence and groups most vulnerable to the problem. Significantly, Ministry of Health has not taken an official position on the need for abortion law reform in their policy documents. To compound the situation, in 2007 the government closed down clinics that were providing abortion services or “menstrual regulation” to a less well-off clientele while turning a blind eye on less affordable abortion services provided in private hospitals. All this suggests that addressing unsafe abortion even within the existing legal framework has not been prioritized in state policy. Addressing issues of health equity and gender/class based discrimination are clearly not on the health agenda.
Given this situation, leaving unsafe abortion to be addressed as a policy level debate restricted to the Ministry of Health is unlikely to be effective. The issue of unsafe abortion will not be addressed unless the debate becomes far more broad based than it is now. We need to advocate abortion law reform and the registration of abortion medicines now instead of reinforcing the silence by pretending that abortion does not take place in Sri Lanka. In reality women will access abortion services if they need them whether we like it or not. Decriminalization and registration will only make existing services cheaper and safer.
Ramya Kumar, MBBS is a graduate student in Public Health. This article is based on a presentation she made at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo on July 13, 2011.

Dec 12, 2011 12:00 AM EST

Jennie McCormack was arrested for terminating her pregnancy with an abortion pill. The case that could transform the reproduction wars.

The last thing on Jennie Linn McCormack’s mind when she realized she was pregnant was that she might, with a single telephone call, upend the vitriolic national debate on abortion.
All she thought about was how it would be impossible for her to take care of another baby. Surviving, barely, on the $250 of monthly child support for one of her three kids, the unemployed, unmarried 32-year-old also knew she didn’t have the more than $500 she’d need for the two-and-a-half-hour trip from her bare-bones rental in Pocatello, Idaho, to Salt Lake City, the closest city with a clinic willing to terminate a pregnancy. She had no computer, no car, no one to take care of her 2-year-old—and like Idaho, Utah had a waiting period for abortions, which meant she’d have to make two round trips. So early this past January, she made the call that may alter history and turn Jennie McCormack into Jane Roe’s unlikely successor: she asked her sister inMississippi to buy RU-486, the so-called abortion pill, over the Internet and send it to her. The cost: about $200.

“My mind just kept going back to my kids, how there was no way I could do that to them, no way I could make their lives even worse,” says McCormack, a petite blonde, as she nearly sinks between the cushions of her sofa, her eyes rimmed with tears. The man who had impregnated her had just been sent to jail for robbery; she did not feel comfortable reaching out to her mother—Mormon, like almost everyone in southeastern Idaho—for help.

McCormack, who thought she was about 12 weeks along, took the pills (the protocol involves two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol) the afternoon they arrived. The drugs are FDA-approved only for ending early-stage pregnancies; McCormack had no complications, but the pregnancy turned out to be more advanced than she thought—perhaps between 18 and 21 weeks, experts later speculated—and the size of the fetus scared her. She didn’t know what to do—“I was paralyzed,” she says—so she put it in a box on her porch, and, terrified, called a friend. That friend then called his sister, who reported McCormack to the police.

Although RU-486 is legal and the fetus was not yet “viable” (that is, old enough to live outside the uterus), Idaho has a 1972 law—never before enforced—making it a crime punishable by five years in prison for a woman to induce her own abortion. The day after police arrested McCormack, her mug shot appeared above the fold in the local newspaper. “It’s hard to imagine the humiliation and fear,” says her lawyer, Richard Hearn, who is also a physician.

The case was dropped weeks later due to lack of evidence. Without solid proof, such as the envelope in which the pills came, her confession wasn’t enough to sustain the case. But prosecutors retained the right to re-file charges. In response, Hearn got a federal injunction to prevent any woman from being prosecuted under the state’s anti-abortion statute by the district attorney. He also filed a class-action suit against the state, claiming the statute is unconstitutional. But all that took nine months to play out, and McCormack lurched into depression and became a virtual shut-in.

“You’d have to know the climate here,” says Hearn, “to fully imagine the amount of pressure Jennie is under, how hostile people can be, how isolated she is.” Next week, motions will be heard in federal court to certify the suit as a class action. Last week, the prosecutor filed a motion to have Hearn’s injunction lifted. (The prosecutor’s office did not return calls seeking comment.)

The case has become a huge tangle for both sides of the abortion battle—state laws that put abortion beyond the reach of poor women are clashing with the global reach of the Internet. With Hearn ready to take his case to the Supreme Court, Jennie Linn McCormack may be above the fold for years to come.

“It’s a profoundly important case,” says Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. “But it’s one that neither the pro-choice nor the pro-life people want to deal with. And that’s what makes it so crucial.”

It’s a bad case for both sides. The fact that McCormack kept a 4-month-old fetus frozen in the winter chill on her back porch is the sort of ghoulish image pro-choice activists try to avoid. For pro-life advocates, supporting her arrest would contradict a longstanding policy of targeting providers while holding women blameless. “It would require a massive change in direction if the anti-abortion movement now supported the criminal prosecution of women directly, which is why McCormack is troubling,” says Cynthia Gorney, a formerWashington Post reporter and the author of Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars. “It would violate everything they built the movement on.”

Neither right-to-life groups nor pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America—usually quick to publicize such human stories as ammunition for their cause—have made public statements on McCormack’s case, and numerous calls to spokespeople on both sides of the issues went unreturned.

“McCormack puts them places that complicate the storyline. It’s the new frontier,” says Gorney, now a journalism professor. “Once you remove the providers, you have no one to picket or pressure. Abortifacient drugs and the Internet change the debate forever. ”

Despite the reticence of pro-choice groups to take up McCormack’s cause, it is exactly what they have been warning of for years: as clinics become inaccessible, poor women are more likely to take abortion into their own hands. In the era before Roe v. Wade, that meant back-room abortions; now it conjures images of a lonely woman in a small town at her keyboard Googling “abortion pill.” Hundreds of online merchants will send RU-486 without a prescription, according to Women on Web, an organization that sends the drugs to women in countries where abortion is illegal.

No one knows how many women in the U.S. have gotten the drugs this way, says Daniel Grossman, a physician who is a senior associate at Ibis Reproductive Health, a research and advocacy group in Cambridge, Mass. “[But] if women were not accessing them, these sites would not be proliferating.” Although the number of abortions nationally has dropped slightly in recent years, some 35 percent of American women will have one at some point in their lives.

The proliferation of sites providing the drugs coincides with the pro-life movement’s highly effective protests and attacks on physicians, clinics, and health-care groups that offer abortions. The number of Planned Parenthood affiliates has been cut in half since 1987, to fewer than 100. Almost 90 percent of counties in the U.S. and 98 percent of rural counties have no abortion services. Many clinics in states where local physicians are pressured not to perform abortions now fly in doctors from out of state to provide abortions, says Melanie Zurek, the executive director of the Abortion Access Project, a Boston-based group that offers training and support to doctors and health organizations.

While Medicaid coverage for abortions has long been outlawed, more than a dozen states now restrict private-insurance coverage of abortion. Texas cut funding for clinics that provide birth control, even if they don’t provide abortion services. A South Dakota bill that would have made women wait 72 hours before getting abortions was recently blocked by a federal judge. A bill in Ohio would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks after conception. In November, Mississippi voters narrowly rejected a referendum that would have defined “personhood” at the time of conception, a notion that would have made even certain types of birth control illegal. Legal scholars on both sides agree that such laws wouldn’t survive a constitutional challenge as long as Roe v. Wade stands. Which is precisely why some pro-life groups are championing them: their goal is to provoke challenges that go to the Supreme Court, which will, in their fever dream, strike Roe down.

This is, of course, the pro-choice movement’s greatest fear. Spooked by the recent strong challenge in Congress to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, pro-choicers are wary about mounting legal challenges to state restrictions, for fear those challenges would end up in front of an inhospitable Supreme Court.

For the clinics that remain, the use of abortion drugs, which require no equipment and far less training for physicians than surgical options, has quietly risen. More than 20 percent of all abortions in the U.S. are now “medical” abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group. The drugs are more than 95 percent effective in ending pregnancies up until seven weeks, according to the FDA, and are considered the best method for ending very early pregnancies.

Later-term abortions like McCormack’s, even those done in a clinic, are the Achilles’ heel of the pro-choice movement. Although only 1 percent of abortions in the U.S. are done after 21 weeks (about 88 percent are performed within 12 weeks), anti-abortion advocates have made such procedures their prime target. Since the Supreme Court in 2007 upheld states’ rights to regulate late-term abortions, more than 35 states now have strengthened their prohibitions on clinics that performed the procedure.

Hearn, McCormack’s lawyer, is less wary about challenging statutes—and undaunted by the lack of public support from either camp. The pro-choice lobby “may not think this is a good time to bring something to the court because it’s so conservative,” he says, “but I say no case is perfect, and if not now, when?”

In addition to his challenge of the Idaho statute criminalizing self-induced abortion, he is targeting the state’s new “fetal pain” law, which is basically a clumsy end-run ban on late-term abortions. (Virtually all research on the subject shows that fetuses cannot distinguish pain until as late as the 30th week of gestation.) Four other states have recently passed similar laws, despite the fact that under Roe, abortions are legal until viability, which is around 25 weeks.

While the arguments fly, McCormack waits quietly in her small, dark apartment. A bedraggled bouquet of silk flowers hangs outside her front door along with a plaque that says “Welcome” in Spanish, French, and German. Even if her suit succeeds, there is no victory for her. She says she has “no friends at all, no one to talk to.” She knows no one who’s had an abortion, or at least no one who will admit it. “My mother, she’s Mormon, you know? She’s a proud person, and this is a terrible thing for her to have to look people in the eye.” After her picture appeared in the paper, McCormack got a part-time job at a dry cleaner, using another name, but people figured out who she was and stopped letting her bag up their clothes, so she quit. On a recent trip to a local state office to apply for aid, she was ignored for hours. “They made it clear what was happening,” she says. “For a while I just sat there, sort of amazed that they were just letting me sit there.” Eventually, she picked up her son and went home.

Even her attempts to bury her fetus have been thwarted. Hearn put in requests to the district attorney to have the remains released from the evidence locker, but no one has responded. “I never wanted to be someone public, to make a point,” McCormack says. “This isn’t a cause for me. I just didn’t know what to do. I did what I thought was right for my kids, that’s all.”

Emergency contraception pill was made available over the counter in Czech Republic . While before it was necessary to present a prescription to buy the pill, now it will be sufficient to present the ID. The data of the person who purchased the pill will be stored in database. The emergency contraception won’t be available for minors of 16 years.

Source: http://www.novinky.cz/domaci/249447-postinor-se-bude-v-cr-prodavat-bez-receptu.html

November 2, 2011

Legalization of abortion in the Federal District of Mexico (Mexico City) has been a great achievement, but one important ingredient was missing: mifepristone. However, with Mexico’s recent decision to register mifepristone, women will now benefit from the highly effective combination of mifepristone and misoprostol to end early pregnancy.

Abortion during the first trimester was decriminalized in the Federal District in April 2007, and within 24 hours the Secretaría de Salud del Distrito Federal (SSDF) was providing abortion care. Women with no health insurance who reside in the Federal District could—and still do—receive abortions at no cost to them, while women living outside the Federal District pay on a sliding scale. Demand was overwhelming; women arrived in the middle of the night and slept on the sidewalk to be sure they would receive services when the clinic was open. Early on, procedures were almost always done with dilation and curettage (D&C), but with continual training, manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) has now almost entirely replaced D&C. However, because there weren’t enough doctors or space to offer MVA to all women, those women who were nine weeks pregnant or less and who lived within the Federal District were given medical abortion. Women more than nine weeks pregnant or who lived beyond the Federal District received MVA.

While mifepristone was not registered or available in Mexico, misoprostol was widely available. Therefore, the medical abortion regimen used since 2007 has been sequential doses of misoprostol 800 mcg taken by the buccal route.

Now mifepristone is registered in Mexico. It will soon be available to physicians in private offices and clinics who are registered to administer it, and it will also be stocked in pharmacies to be dispensed as a Class 3 prescription (similar to prescriptions for narcotics that require a physician’s prescription). Mifepristone has also been added to the Essential Drug List in the Federal District so the public hospitals and clinics will be able to work on procurement.

Outside of the Federal District, states in Mexico have laws that restrict induced abortion to limited circumstances, such as rape, risk of death or if the health of the woman is in great danger. However, there may be some indications within those laws for mifepristone/misoprostol use; how mifepristone and misoprostol are used in some states may evolve.

In addition, Gynuity Health Projects and SSDF recently completed a joint study using mifepristone 200 mg combined with misoprostol 800 mcg by the buccal route. One thousand women were recruited for the study and the results were significant: The high success rate of this regimen was virtually identical to the success rates of mifepristone and misoprostol medical abortion published elsewhere, explained Dr. Patricio Sanheuza, SSDF’s coordinator of reproductive health. Sanheuza described the study—as well as the status of mifepristone and plans to integrate it in the public sector—at a meeting organized by SSDF and Gynuity Health Projects in July in Mexico City.

The many organizations and individuals that worked tirelessly to make mifepristone available in Mexico are now hopeful that the results of this joint study, combined with on-going advocacy efforts, will continue to expand women’s access to this highly effective medical abortion drug.

* This story is published as part of the newsletter Medical Abortion Matters, November 2011.

And now for something completly different…
I wonder what the Christian Right has to say about this
Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the
November 3, 2011
Mifepristone, a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for terminating early pregnancy, might prove effective in preventing stress-induced relapse in recovering male alcoholics, based on findings in rats reported by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco.
Mifepristone was originally marketed under the name RU-486. It blocks the activity of progesterone and cortisol, hormones that, in the brain, are thought to play a role in promoting alcoholism as well as relapse.
“It’s well-known that stress can lead to relapse in people who are trying not to drink,” said senior author Selena E. Bartlett, PhD, director of medications development at the Gallo Center. “Until now, we have had very few interventions that showed potential as possible treatments.”
In an experiment reported online November 2, 2011 in Neuropsychopharmacology, Bartlett and her research team trained a group of male rats to drink either an alcohol solution or a sucrose solution on demand by pressing a lever. The rats were then conditioned not to press the lever to seek the reward of a drink – a process “sort of like rehabilitation in humans,” according to Bartlett.
After this period of forced abstinence, the rats were given yohimbine, a compound known to induce stress and relapse-like behavior in rodents.
“We wanted to see if the stressed rats would press the lever again, much as a stressed alcoholic in recovery might reach for a drink,” said Bartlett.
Some of the rats were given injections of mifepristone before being given yohimbine. Those animals were significantly less likely to press the lever for a drink when compared with rats not given mifepristone.
In order to pinpoint exactly where the mifepristone was acting in the rats’ brains, Bartlett and her team repeated the experiment – but this time, before administering yohimbine, they infused mifepristone directly into the central nucleus of the amygdala, a brain structure known to play a role in stress, anxiety and anxiety disorders. This brain region has been shown to be a critical area for the control of fear responses, as well as the center of individual emotional experience.
The researchers found that the mifepristone infusions discouraged lever-pressing behavior in the rats trained to drink alcohol, but not in the rats trained to drink sucrose solution.
“This was a very unexpected finding, but very exciting,” said Bartlett. “Identifying the area of the brain where mifepristone acts to discourage alcoholic relapse opens up the possibility of creating new compounds that are even more specific in their action.”
Currently, Bartlett and her team are working to determine which hormone mifepristone specifically blocks in discouraging relapse: cortisol or progesterone. “We are working to obtain funding to enable testing of this medication in male alcoholics,” she said.
Co-authors of the paper are Jeffrey A. Simms, BS, of the Gallo Center; Carolina L. Haass-Koffler, PharmD, of the Gallo Center and UCSF; and Jade Bito-Onon, BS, and Rui Li, BS, of the Gallo Center.
The research was supported by funds from the State of California through UCSF and the U.S. Department of Defense.
The UCSF-affiliated Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center is one of the world’s preeminent academic centers for the study of the biological basis of alcohol and substance use disorders. Gallo Center discoveries of potential molecular targets for the development of therapeutic medications are extended through preclinical and proof-of-concept clinical studies.

Outdated laws lag behind medicine

04 Apr 2011


Abortion is a common, publicly subsidised medical procedure which is estimated to be the outcome of one in four pregnancies in Australia. However, the law is seriously lagging behind other developed countries in regulating reproductive medicine says La Trobe University’s Associate Professor Dr Kerry Petersen.



moot courtDr Petersen, from La Trobe’s School of Law, says the law needs urgent reform in order to discourage women from taking a step backwards into the ‘backyard abortion’ of yesteryear.

She draws on a recent Queensland verdict – R v Brennan and Leach – where a woman was charged with procuring her own abortion. The woman’s partner had accessed drugs, Mifepristone and Misoprotol, from a relative in the Ukraine to administer an abortion without seeking medical assistance. He was charged with supplying drugs to procure an abortion.

‘The couple were found not guilty because the law prohibits women from attempting to administer a ‘noxious’ thing to abort a pregnancy. The term ‘noxious’ in the charge refers to a harmful way to induce an abortion, however Mifepristone combined with Misoprostol is used worldwide and is regarded as a safe and effective method for medical abortions’ says Dr Petersen.

Developed by a French pharmaceutical company in the early eighties, these drugs are widely accepted, however, few doctors in Queensland have prescribing rights. This has made access to the drug difficult. Internet trafficking has become a response by some in order to obtain the drugs.

‘This is a step backwards into the ‘backyard’ abortion of yesteryear. Half of the drugs obtained over the internet, according to the World Health organisation, are counterfeit which could pose a threat to a woman’s health,’ Dr Petersen says.

The developments of new methods for abortion are in contradiction with the outdated laws in Queensland as seen in this case. If another woman were to source the drugs through the internet, they might not be so lucky because there is no way to tell the integrity of a drug purchased online she says.

Dr Petersen says an intelligent response is necessary to protect women’s health. This would include repealing inappropriate and ineffective abortion laws, introducing policies aimed at reducing the incidence of unintended pregnancies and abortions, and removing administrative barriers which control the availability of the drugs.

‘If more general practitioners were permitted to prescribe Mifepristone and Misopristol and organise follow-up care, it is unlikely that many women would have any need to tap into irregular sources. The State of Queensland has put two young people through an unnecessary and gruelling trial because of obsolete abortion laws which lack regulatory legitimacy,’ says Dr Petersen.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Associate Professor Dr Kerry Petersen, please contact:

Meghan Lodwick

Communications Officer
T (03) 9479 5353 E m.lodwick@latrobe.edu.au

Today HERA and the Macedonian Association of the Gynecologists and Obstetricians held a press conference in order to oppose the Government media campaign (launched 10 days ago) with misleading and intimidating information on abortion.


In the Government campaign titled as “Chose life – You have a right to chose”, including a video spot about the procedure of the termination of pregnancy, infertility, sepsis, perforations of the uterus, complications from the anesthesia and severe mental problems are suggested as consequences of abortion.


Both associations called for Government to stop and withdrawn the campaign for its wrong suggestive information.

Both associations said that:

1.       In the last couple of years there is either no death case  or serious complications of an abortion procedure registered. The consequences, as suggested in the video spot, can be found with any medical intervention and it is not evidence-based either exclusive only for an abortion procedure

2.        The government campaign is completely contradicting with the strategic interventions in the framework of the current national polices for reducing the abortion rate in the country and for improving SRHR (National Strategy of Safe Motherhood and the National Strategy for adolescents health and development)

3.       The campaign does not encourage, on the contrary, it denys the right of choice for the women to freely decide about her life and parenthood planning. It reinforces gender stereotypes at the same time

4.       The campaign is focused to change the public opinion and awareness by informing them that abortion is a risky medical intervention and the main reason for decreased birth rate in the country. It can only be presumed that this camping has the purpose to adopt a new and restricted Abortion Law which will not consider the right of women to freely decide to continue or terminate her pregnancy.

Therefore HERA and the Macedonian Association of the Gynecologists and Obstetricians recommend:

1.       Instead of a media campaign that will teach women about consequences of abortion the government should initiate a campaign on raising public awareness about oral contraception as effective and relevant means for reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies.

2.       The right of the woman to freely decide on her parenthood planning, which is in a line with the Macedonian Constitutional rights and International ratified treaties, to be guaranteed in case the Abortion Law to be amended

3.       To improve the infrastructure and the conditions of safe motherhood services

4.       To include the oral contraception in the patients’ health insurance package

5.       To introduce and implement the newly presented protocols for safe abortion by MoH, including registration of the medical abortion drugs, to further improve the safety and the quality of the safe abortion services

6.       To introduce mechanisms for improved social and economical life of future parents (better education, more possibilities for employment and providing social benefits for future parents)

7.       Introducing sexuality education in schools as separate discipline.


The government of Ecuador blocked the phone line of the Ecuadorian hotline, where women can get help to get a safe abortion despite its illegality.

But the women already have re-established a new phone number:



Formato Carta de Apoyo Salud Mujeres –

Nos declaramos en rebeldía, seguiremos entregando información con nuestro nuevo número 098301317

Salud Mujeres es una línea gratuita que brinda información a las mujeres sobre cómo pueden realizarse un aborto de forma segura mediante el uso de medicamentos. También informamos acerca de anticoncepción, incluyendo la de emergencia, y sexualidad en general. Nuestra acción se enmarca en la legislación del país, concretamente en el artículo 18 de la Constitución vigente, por lo cual es constitucional y legal.

Trabajamos en defensa de los derechos de las mujeres: a tener acceso a la información, a la salud, a tomar decisiones informadas sobre su vida sexual y reproductiva, a no sufrir discriminación por su sexo, a tener acceso a los avances de la ciencia y la tecnología, a la libertad de expresión, a la libertad de conciencia, a la libertad religiosa, a la privacidad, a no ser sometidas a trato cruel, inhumano y degradante, a decidir el número de hijos e

hijas que quiere tener y el intervalo entre sus nacimientos, a decidir si quiere ser madre o no y, a la vida; derechos todos respaldados en nuestra constitución y en las múltiples convenciones de derechos humanos de las que nuestro país es signatario.

Aclaramos también que nosotras no aconsejamos, no obligamos, ni inducimos a ninguna mujer a tomar ninguna decisión, pues uno de nuestros principios fundamentales es el reconocimiento a la capacidad e inteligencia que tenemos todas mujeres para tomar decisiones sobre nuestras vidas y nuestra reproducción. Nuestro trabajo se encuentra comprometido con todas las mujeres que requieran la información que se da a través de nuestra línea, es un trabajo voluntario y desinteresado de activistas feministas que luchamos en

contra del sistema patriarcal-capitalista-heterosexista de nuestro país y el mundo. Trabajamos para destruir las limitaciones a las decisiones de las mujeres y para disminuir las muertes de ellas por abortos inseguros.

El día de ayer, Domingo 12 de septiembre de 2010, el número telefónico de Salud Mujeres, 099004545, fue bloqueado por Movistar, por una orden enviada desde la Fiscalía General del Estado Ecuatoriano.

Frente a esta acción, y en uso de nuestros derechos fundamentales

constitucionalmente reconocidos, nos declaramos en resistencia y seguiremos entregando información: el nuevo número de Salud Mujeres es 098301317.

Nos declaramos en desacuerdo con las normas penales que discriminan a las mujeres y violan la constitución, con aquellas que nos obligan a asumir maternidades que no queremos, y con las que intentan callarnos para seguir manteniendo el aborto y la sexualidad de las mujeres en el silencio y el tabú.

Es por esta razón que pedimos apoyo de la gente, organizaciones y colectivos que conocen nuestro trabajo y que también están en desacuerdo con las leyes que criminalizan a las mujeres, necesitamos apoyo para difundir nuestro nuevo número y para evitar que estas acciones de persecución continúen. Envíennos su apoyo o adhiéranse al formato adjunto, llenándolo y enviándolo a saludmujeresecuador@hotmail.com

Agradecemos su colaboración.

Salud Mujeres


The charges brought against a young couple from Queensland for taking the RU486 pill have dangerous ramifications for all Australian women, writes Samantha Campbell.

The Women’s Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC) is continuing its campaign of defence and support for the young Cairns couple who go to trial on 12 October 2010, charged under archaic abortion laws that still exist under the Queensland criminal code.

In 2009 the woman had a medical abortion at home using RU486 and misoprostol, drugs that were obtained from her partner’s relatives in the Ukraine along with doctor’s instructions for their use.

She faces seven years in prison and he faces three.

Whilst access to RU486 is restricted, due to strict control by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, it remains a legal drug in Australia for the purpose of medical abortion.

RU486 remains restricted because, as yet, no pharmaceutical company has applied to import and distribute it within Australia.

This leaves individual doctors the time consuming responsibility of having to apply to the TGA directly to be able to obtain and prescribe the drug for their patients.

These problematic circumstances ensure limited access to medical abortion with the use of RU486 for Australian women. RU486 is both legal in Australia and safe to use – with complications akin to that of a spontaneous miscarriage – and is available in about 35 other countries including the United States and France where it accounts for roughly one-third of abortions.

RU486 is a valid and safe option for abortion that should be widely available to Australian women in an effort to promote safe and affordable options for women seeking an abortion.

Abortion in Australia is legal, established by common law rulings in Queensland in 1986 and in NSW in 1971 that gave provisions for “lawful” abortions in cases where the woman’s physical or mental health are at risk from continuation of the pregnancy.

Provisions for abortion have also been made to include financial and social grounds for abortion at the discretion of individual doctors. Abortion is subsidised by a Medicare rebate and in that respect is recognised as a medical procedure.

The issue then ignites when abortion is treated with distinct difference from any other medical procedure under the law. Abortion is a medical procedure and should not be categorised differently in any legislation. All abortion laws should be repealed.

While the trial for the Cairns couple essentially remains a Queensland issue, the ramifications of charges brought under these archaic laws threaten all Australian women.

Abortion also remains within the NSW criminal code and while this is so, NSW women are at risk of similar prosecution and treatment to that received by the Cairns couple.

The dangerous contradiction between the law and state criminal codes in Australia presents a misleading reality for Australian women who believe they have complete legal access to abortion.

The legality of abortion in Australia is haunted by the fallacy of freedom of choice for women’s bodies by outdated sections of state criminal codes that remain ignorant to the needs and demands of Australian women.

The Women’s Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC NSW), alongside the Pro-Choice Action Collective (PCAC QLD) and Radical Women (VIC), are calling for all charges against the Cairns couple to be dropped.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Queensland state ministers have been repeatedly called upon to action the release of the couple from these charges.

In response, Anna Bligh and the Queensland state government claim that the case relates to the illegal method in which the abortion drugs were obtained.

Why then have the couple been charged under the sections of the criminal code specific to abortion?

The Queensland government has attempted to distract the facts of the case and the issue at the heart of these charges with claims of illegal importation, despite the clear charge of the couple under state abortion laws, not drug importation laws.

The Queensland government also maintained that the charges against the couple are valid despite the absence of proof that the woman was pregnant or that the drugs were used to cause a miscarriage; all they required was an ‘intent’ to procure a miscarriage in order for the couple to be charged under the state criminal code.

It is essential to acknowledge the absurdity of these charges and to rise together as a nation in solidarity with the mistreated couple.

This case is not isolated to Queensland as the Bligh government may intend to direct it, rather it raises a national issue for the protection of abortion rights in Australia and a woman’s right to choose.

Call to action: National rallies on Saturday 9 October 2010

The trial date for the Cairns case has been set to begin on 12 October 2010 and WAAC in NSW, alongside PCAC in Queensland and Radical Women in Victoria, are co-ordinating a National Day of Action on Saturday 9 October 2010 in solidarity with the Cairns couple.

We are calling for the Queensland government to drop all charges against the couple and repeal all abortion laws.

This national day of protest will unite supporters of abortion rights and draw attention to the archaic laws that in the 21st century still stipulate abortion as a crime. Never again should any woman in Australia be subject to the trauma faced by the Cairns couple for exercising every woman’s right to choose.

It is important for Australian women to recognise the unjust treatment of the Cairns couple and unite in making our voices heard.

The government needs to hear, loud and clear, that we do not accept the prejudiced treatment of abortion in current legislation, we do not accept any place for law in the decisions we as women make over our own bodies, we do not accept any mockery of the campaigning of our foremothers for abortion rights and we cannot allow the prosecution of the Cairns couple to take place and threaten our freedom of choice.

Visit the WAAC website for details of times and places for the national rallies on 9 October 2010.

Samantha Campbell is a student at Macquarie University studying a BA in Gender Studies. She has been involved in WAAC for seven months, contributing to efforts that support abortion rights.