Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is set to recommend on Friday that the country subsidize access to the RU-486 abortion pill, ensuring access to affordable reproductive choices for the vast majority of Australians.
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration — comparable to U.S.’ Food and Drug Administration — approved RU-486 for import into the country last year, setting the stage for the upcoming decision. For those with access to Australia’s government health care benefits, signified through the possession of a concession card, women will pay far, far less for access to the drug cocktail used in medication-induced abortions:
This would mean that within months, the price will drop from up to $800 to as little as $5.90 for concession card holders for each of the two drugs needed for a medical abortion — a total of just $11.80.
The cost will be up to $36.10 each for non-concession holders.
The “abortion pill” RU486 is used in conjunction with another drug, misoprostol, and is for women who are up to seven weeks pregnant.
Under the proposed regulations, Australian doctors who wish to prescribe the pill would be required to take a specialized training, so doctors morally opposed to RU-486 may opt to simply not take the course. The end result: a greatly expanded web of providers of the pill, helping to lower the price and provide greater access to a pill that the World Health Organization has touted as being able to prevent thousands of deaths from unsafe abortions annually.
Australian Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, a supporter of expanded access to the drug, is expected to swiftly accept the Advisory Committee’s recommendations and register RU-486 under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Should the recommendations be approved, Australia is poised to join France, which recently decided to cover nearly all costs associated with abortion and contraception, in moving forward in expanding affordable reproductive health care for women.
Unfortunately, U.S. health insurance providers are not mandated to cover RU-486 under the Affordable Care Act and, given the increasing number of states seeking to roll back access to abortion care, the odds of a similar expansion of coverage in the United States are slim to none at this point. But the furor that erupted when the FDA first approved RU-486 has subsided, leaving the use of the abortion pill to rise over the past decade.