By HOLLY HUFFMAN

Eagle Staff Writer

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan now is offering medical abortions, a less invasive method that allows a woman to terminate her pregnancy by taking two different pills.

When the pills are taken together — the first swallowed and the second inserted vaginally — it causes the vagina to contract and expel the fetus. The effect is similar to that of a miscarriage, said Nancy Meyers, research director for Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas and a licensed social worker.

The method, which is 97 percent effective at ending pregnancy, provides women an alternative to surgical abortion and allows them to go through the procedure at home, Meyers said.

A woman can be no more than nine weeks pregnant to qualify for a medical abortion, Meyers said. A woman undergoing a surgical abortion can be up to 12 weeks pregnant, according to Bryan clinic regulations.

“It’s all the woman’s choice as far as what she feels more comfortable with,” Meyers said.

She said women have been asking about and requesting the procedure since before it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration almost three years ago.

But local anti-abortion leader David Bereit opposes the drugs, calling it morally reprehensible that Planned Parenthood would offer such a service. It doesn’t matter whether an abortion is done surgically or chemically, he said, because the end result is the same.

“An abortion is an abortion, whether it’s 10 days after conception or 10 days before delivery,” said Bereit, executive director of the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life. “It’s still a human life and should be protected.”

According to the FDA’s approved regimen for medical abortion, a woman first must take mifepristone and follow two days later with a dose of misoprostol. Mifepristone, dubbed the abortion pill because it is designed to end an early pregnancy, originally was designed to prevent ulcers and induce labor.

Women taking the pills must return to the doctor two days after the first visit and again 11 days later to make sure the procedure worked, the FDA Web site states. The drugs can cause birth defects if the pregnancy is not terminated.

Primary side effects are cramping and bleeding, which can last up to 30 days, the Web site states. About one out of every 100 women bleed so heavily that a surgical procedure is needed to stop it.

The Bryan clinic, which has been open for about 29 years, began offering abortions in 1999. Planned Parenthood Community Service Director Debbie McCall said the clinic has performed more than 1,800 surgical abortions since then.

Medical abortions were first offered at the clinic July 9. Since then, only one medical abortion has been performed, but more are scheduled, McCall said.

Meyers said all clients seeking an abortion, surgical or medical, undergo the same lab work and the counseling to ensure they are aware of their options. The clinic also charges the same fee — $410 — for either procedure.

“It is a safe medical alternative,” she said.

A concerned Bereit disagreed, saying he believes medicines should be used for healing people, not hurting them.

“I think it’s a shame that somebody would take a medicine that would cause so much damage to another human life, as well as put themselves at greater risk,” Bereit said. “It ends a human life and thus we’re opposed to it.”

• Holly Huffman’s e-mail address is hhuffman@theeagle.com.

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