When RU-486, known by its trade name Mifepristone in the United States, becomes available to American doctors at the end of October, University Health Services (UHS) should move as quickly as possible to make this alternative to surgical abortion available to Harvard students. While UHS has never performed surgical abortions for students, its pharmacy does provide oral contraceptives-such as the "morning after" pill-that can be term-billed under the anonymous title "pharmacy charges." We encourage UHS to add RU-486 to the prescription drugs and contraceptives already available to students.
Although the FDA has placed strict requirements on the dissemination of the drug, these requirements should not be a barrier to its prescription by UHS. All women considering the use of Mifepristone, for example, are required to be given a brochure detailing how to take the drug, who should take the drug, and what side effects many result from the drug. RU-486 treatment also involves at least three appointments, all of which should be able to be made with UHS doctors. The FDA has regulated that a doctor or a supervised health care practitioner can only prescribe the drug.
RU-486 will not be available from pharmacies and all women who choose to take Mifepristone must consent to a surgical abortion if the drug fails because it can cause birth defects to the fetus. With such safety guards in place, UHS should feel confident and be willing to make the drug available to Harvard students.
In fact, there seem to be no major obstacles to UHS' prescription of the drug. UHS is currently in talks with gynecologists at Brigham and Women's Hospital about prescribing the drug and is waiting to hear their opinion. We ask that UHS present the strongest possible case to these doctors that RU-486 be prescribed at UHS, and that gynecologists at Brigham and Women's provide surgical abortions for students if the pill fails. We hope the doctors at Brigham and Women's will understand the importance of making RU-486 available and accessible to women on campus. Students should be able to be prescribed RU-486 by their regular doctor at UHS, not have to make three trips into Boston to meet with a stranger.
We recognize that students taking the RU-486 drug may be sensitive and emotional as a result of the decision to have an abortion. But UHS already offers counseling for women who become pregnant--through both UHS' own services and through student groups on campus. This counseling should also apply to women who are prescribed RU-486.
With a network of counseling and support services in place at UHS and the cooperation and assistance of gynecologists at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, UHS should see no barrier to prescribing RU-486 to students.
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