011216-ART CAPLAN.mp3

It has been 42 years since Roe v. Wade and the abortion debate is still raging on. Currently, abortion doctors in North Carolina, Louisiana, and Oklahoma must send ultrasounds and measurements of the fetus to the state in order to prove the fetus is younger than 20 weeks. Besides the legal grey area of requiring the proof of age, the federal law allows abortions for pregnancies up to 24 weeks, not 20.

“This is a continued effort to end abortion through harassment and there is no reason anybody has to send in an ultrasound off to state authorities to prove anything,” Medical ethicist Art Caplan said on Boston Public Radio Wednesday. “It is a medical decision, a medical judgment.”

Caplan believes that the imminent release of a pharmaceutical abortion pill will nullify many of the current legal hoops women and doctors must navigate to receive and administer abortions.

“I still believe that pharmaceutical abortion is coming. That is, taking a pill after intercourse, if you miss your period or something and you don’t go to a clinic, and you don’t have a surgical thing, and you don’t need all that facility to support it,” Caplan said.

A pharmaceutical abortion pill is coming sooner than you think, says Caplan. “In the next three to four years. It is coming pretty fast. We have a fairly good day after pill and you can work off of that. I think you’ll get something that will be pretty safe and effective. Not only do you not need a clinic, but you could get it from any doctor.”

Currently, doctors do use pills that can facilitate abortions. The pill that Caplan is predicting could be bought at a drug store with a prescription, expediting the abortion process and making it more available for women.

Caplan still believes that pro-life enthusiast will try to prevent women from attaining the pill by blocking access and preventing them from crossing state lines. Regardless of what measures pro-life supporters decide to take though, a pharmaceutical abortion pill will certainly change the landscape of the conversation.

“That is going to shift the terms of all this harassment debate now,” Caplan said. 


Art Caplan is a head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. Listen to Boston Public Radio’s Interview with Art Caplan above.