KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — A reproductive rights group told the Health Ministry today to fast-track the approval and supply of abortion drugs so these may be safely prescribed to women.
The Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM) also rejected claims that abortion drugs such as mifepristone and misoprostol are banned in the UK and US, pointing out that they are widely used for early abortions and approved in 1991 and 2000 in both countries respectively.
“We agree with the minister that, ideally, these drugs should be prescribed by a doctor who has assessed the client’s suitability for medical abortion,” RRAAM co-chair Dr SP Choong said in a statement, referring to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
“Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health has not approved mifepristone and has restricted the supply of misoprostol. So, in effect, his ministry has prevented doctors from practising what he preaches,” he added.
Dr Subramaniam reportedly said recently that the ministry was concerned over the online sales of abortion pills and that they were working with the Customs Department and the police to detect packages containing such pills.
In Malaysia, abortion is legal if a doctor considers the pregnancy a risk to a woman’s life or to her physical or mental health. However, abortion services are rarely provided here.
Dr Choong said mishaps with misoprostol were due to poor assessment and lack of knowledge about the drug, stressing that it did not mean the medicine was unsafe.
“Many safe and approved drugs can cause mishaps if misused. For example, statistics will show that Viagra has caused many more deaths that these abortion pills,” he pointed out.
He said mifepristone and misoprostol have been recognised as one of the safest methods for inducing an abortion, noting that it has been acknowledged by the Health Ministry itself and by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Initiating prosecutions of online buyers will be a significant backward step for women’s reproductive health and rights,” he said.