Mifepristone in Moldova: Women on Waves founder wants to use abortion pill as contraception following Roe vs. Wade reversal
- Rebecca Gomperts, an abortion rights activist, aims to fight the overthrow of Roe v. Wade.
- The doctor is trying to start a clinical trial studying the use of the
abortion pilllike a contraceptive.
A prominent reproductive rights activist is looking to the abortion pill mifepristone as a possible remedy following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch doctor who founded Women on Waves and several other reproductive rights organizations, has spent the past two decades helping women in countries where abortion is restrictive gain access to medical abortion through the use of boats, robots and drones.
But Gomperts is still interested in the next big thing, she told Insider in an interview this week, and she’s betting the future of reproductive justice could lie in a 50-milligram dose of mifepristone.
Mifepristone, one of two drugs under the “abortion pill” umbrella, stops pregnancy by stopping the production of progesterone. The drug is taken by mouth and can be used to induce abortions for up to about nine weeks.
Gomperts is already familiar with the use of mifepristone as an abortion pill. Her organization Aid Access, which she founded in 2018, provides access to medical abortion by mail in the United States and around the world. But Gomperts is looking to use the pill’s other health benefits in an effort to provide those at risk of getting pregnant with a possible fail-safe in a post-Roe world and beyond.
“It has amazing health benefits for women,” she said. “It works really well for endometriosis. It works really well for myoma. It’s a very effective morning after pill, and it’s a very effective once-a-week birth control pill that doesn’t have the side effects of hormonal contraceptives.”
Studies around the world are investigating how mifepristone can be used to fight cancer, addiction, depression, and several other conditions, and Gomperts is eager to begin her own study.
She said her goal is to have a 50-milligram dose of mifepristone for use as a weekly on-demand contraceptive on pharmacy shelves within 10 years.
“And then we hope that it will really change the lives of women,” she added.
If mifepristone is approved by the FDA as a weekly contraceptive, then people who could become pregnant could have ready access to the drug as a contraceptive, but could also use it as an abortion inducer, should it become necessary.
“The laws all deal with when people are pregnant,” Gomperts said. “So when you can make sure people have these drugs in their homes, there’s no criminalization because there’s no pregnancy.”
Gomperts’ solution, however, only works if access to contraception continues to be a protected federal right in the United States — a growing concern, given the conservative lean of the nation’s highest court. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asked the court to explain its decision on Friday to reconsider Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark case that protected access to contraception.
But the looming threat of possible new restrictions isn’t stopping Gomperts from moving forward.
“I think it’s really important to try to look for what is possible, which is still possible,” she told Insider.
Gomperts said her organization “Women on Web” had ethical approval from Moldova’s Ministry of Health to conduct a study because 50 milligrams of mifepristone is already on the market there for the treatment of myomas, non-cancerous tumors. that can form in or around the uterus.
The group is now raising funds to implement the clinical trial, which it says will take five years, after which it hopes to start applying for registration of the pill as a contraceptive with the FDA and of the European Medicines Agency.
A GoFundMe page for the study says the organization has already raised €500,000 and needs to get another €500,000 before it can begin the process. The group ultimately needs 2.2 million euros to complete the year-long trial, the page says.
“We have decided that this is a drug that needs to be freed from the restrictions placed on it,” Gomperts said, “so that it becomes widely available for women to use for all of its indications.”