Japan’s health ministry approves abortion pill for the first time

Until now, a surgical procedure has been the only option for women

Maroosha Muzaffar
Sunday 30 April 2023 07:22 BST
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File - A patient prepares to take the first of two combination pills, mifepristone, for a medication abortion
File - A patient prepares to take the first of two combination pills, mifepristone, for a medication abortion (Associated Press)

Japan’s health ministry has approved, for the first time, the sale of an oral abortion pill in the country, it was reported on Friday.

The ministry said that the pill — made by British pharmaceutical company Linepharma International which had filed its product for approval in Japan in December 2021 — can terminate a pregnancy of up to nine weeks of gestation.

In Japan, abortion is legal up to 22 weeks, but according to The Japan Times, consent is usually required from a spouse or partner, and until now a surgical procedure had been the only option.

The ministry had first convened in January to review the drug, before asking for the public to submit their opinions through an online portal.

The medication consists of two types of pill and can be used within nine weeks of pregnancy, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK. In a clinical trial in Japan, 93 per cent of participants had a complete abortion within 24 hours, NHK reported.

The Japanese panel’s decision on Friday was celebrated by the country’s medical experts online.

According to CNN, Kanako Inaba, an obstetrician and gynaecologist said that the approval of abortion pills was an opportunity to spread greater sex education and awareness about contraceptive methods.

NHK also reported that said the total cost of the abortion pill and a medical consultation would be around 100,000 yen (£585).

Abortions are not covered by public health insurance. And surgical abortions can cost between 100,000 yen and 200,000 yen.

There were 126,174 abortions in Japan in fiscal 2021, according to the health ministry.

The approval of the abortion pill by the health ministry was seen as a major step for reproductive rights in the country.

Activists in Japan have been pushing for years for approval of abortion pills. Mifepristone was first approved in France in 1988, and in the US in 2000.

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