Updated Apr 21, 2023, 10:43am EDT
East Asia

Japan to approve nation's first abortion pill

A box containing a Mifepristone tablet is seen at Blue Mountain Clinic in Missoula, Montana, U.S. February 28, 2023. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare/File Photo
REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare

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The News

A Japanese health ministry panel approved the country's first abortion pill on Friday in a milestone moment for women after calls for greater reproductive rights. The decision comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is due to decide on whether to limit access to a widely-used abortion medication.

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Know More

Japan has faced criticism for lagging behind other countries on access to abortion and reproductive rights: To date women have had to rely on costly surgical procedures, with married women required to get approval from their spouse under the country’s Maternal Health Act, a rule abortion rights campaigners hope to overturn.

The newly-approved Mefeego pill pack — which includes two types of drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol — will need to be taken under medical supervision at a hospital, The Japan Times reported. It's unclear how it will be priced but the drug won’t be covered under Japan’s national health insurance.

Final approval of Mefeego from Japan's health minister is expected to follow the panel's decision, the paper added, but the timing is unclear.

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The View From the U.S.

The U.S. is moving in a different direction to much of the world where abortion drugs such as mifepristone are widely available.

On Friday the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether or not access to mifepristone, used in the majority of the country's abortions, should be restricted.

Mifepristone is currently available by mail, making it a lifeline for people seeking abortions in states with limited access. But a coalition of abortion groups are trying to suspend the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 23-year-old approval of the drug.

The court’s ruling will be the first major test on abortion rights in America since the overturning last year of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion a legal right in the United States.

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  • More than 90 countries around the world have approved the use of the abortion drug mifepristone, reporting from The Washington Post shows. In countries where abortion is illegal or restricted but mifepristone or its sister drug misoprostol are allowed, the pill is often smuggled to women who need it, the Post notes.

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