Controversial abortion pill goes on sale in Czech pharmacies

Illustrative photo: Kristýna Maková

Czech pharmacies on Monday begin selling the controversial abortion pill RU-486 which has been approved for terminating pregnancies of up to seven weeks. Some gynaecologists argue the drug is safer for women than surgical abortion. But its opponents believe it could encourage irresponsible sexual behaviour – and that administering it actually breaches the law.

Illustrative photo: Kristýna Maková
Only specialized gynaecological clinics in hospitals are allowed to prescribe the RU-486 pill to women who want to terminate their pregnancies after no later than 49 days. The drug, consisting of four pills, is not covered by public health insurance, and costs around 3,500 crowns, or some 170 US dollars.

RU-486 was first introduced in France more than 25 years ago. Since then, it has been approved in 25 European countries including Germany, the UK, and Sweden.

The French pharmaceutical company Exelgyn, which produces the pill, had applied for registration in the Czech Republic twice in the past but it was only approved last June. Professor Pavel Calda from Prague’s General University Hospital welcomes its arrival.

“The probability of the pill’s failure has been established at between 1.3 and 7.5 percent of cases, which is something we need to discuss with the woman.

“But it in effect induces natural expulsion of the foetal egg in its earliest development stage so the method should be less invasive than surgical abortion.”

However, opponents of the method have strongly fought its legalization in the Czech Republic. Over 70,000 people have signed a petition asking the State Institute for Drug Control not to authorize the pill. The group Pro Life has also organized a series of protest marches across the country.

One of the critics of the pill is Xenie Preiningerová, a Catholic gynaecologist from Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou in eastern Czech Republic.

Illustrative photo: Tomasz Kobosz / freeimages
“The availability of the pill will naturally lead to irresponsibility. Also, I don’t understand why a new method is being introduced at a time when the number of abortions is decreasing.

“And I also think that doctors will face sanctions as the woman will not undergo the entire process in hospital, as required by the law.”

The highest number of abortions in today’s Czech Republic – some 110,000 – was recorded in 1988. Since then, numbers have been dropping, with around 22,000 registered last year.