Japan has approved the use of the abortion pill, marking the first time that the drug will be available in the country for terminating early-stage pregnancy.
Abortion is legal in Japan up to 22 weeks, however, consent from a partner is usually required and surgical procedures have been the only option until now.
British pharmaceutical company Linepharma has filed its two-step treatment of mifepristone and misoprostol for approval in Japan in December 2021. The approval of the pill to end pregnancies up to nine weeks follows a ministry panel endorsement, which was delayed for a month due to the submission of thousands of public opinions.
The US and France are among the countries where similar medication is already available. The total cost of the abortion pill and medical consultation in Japan is estimated to be around 100,000 yen ($700), which is comparable to the cost of surgical abortions which can range from 100,000 to 200,000 yen.
Mifepristone, the active ingredient in the abortion pill, has been at the center of a high-profile US court battle in recent weeks. The US Supreme Court has temporarily preserved access to the widely used abortion drug, freezing rulings by lower courts that would have banned or severely restricted its availability.
In addition to access to the abortion pill, campaigners in Japan are advocating for better access to the morning-after pill, which prevents pregnancy. Emergency contraception cannot currently be bought in Japan without a doctor’s approval. It is also the only medicine that must be taken in front of a pharmacist to prevent it from being sold on the black market.
Overall, the approval of the abortion pill in Japan provides a new option for women seeking to terminate early-stage pregnancy. The cost of the pill is comparable to surgical abortions, which may make it more accessible for women who otherwise cannot afford the procedure. The approval also marks progress towards reproductive rights in Japan, though campaigners are still advocating for better access to emergency contraception.