New Mexico Will Pay for Poor Women’s Abortion Drugs

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 10, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Mexico Will Pay for Poor Women’s Abortion Drugs

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
December 10, 2003

Santa Fe, NM ( — Despite increasing questions about the safety of the abortion drug RU-486, the state of New Mexico is now footing the bill for the drug to be distributed to low-income women.

Changes in the state-run Medicaid program mean that tax dollars will now be used to cover the cost of RU-486, also known as mifepristone, and other non-surgical abortion methods for the poor.

The state Medicaid director told the Albuquerque Tribune that new regulations will cover cases when doctors or nurses prescribe RU-486 — but only for so-called "medically necessary abortions."

Dauneen Dolce of Right to Life of New Mexico said in response, "There are no medically necessary cases that would require the use of RU 486."

Dolce said it takes days to complete an abortion using the drug and, if a woman’s life was in danger or she had a severe medical problem, no reputable doctor would use it to protect a woman’s life or health.

Pro-life activists also say the abortion drug is bad medicine. 

They point to the case of Holly Patterson, a California teenager who died earlier this year after taking the chemical cocktail. They say the Food and Drug Administration, under then-President Bill Clinton, approved the drug despite damaging evidence from test trials indicating that RU-486 was potentially deadly. 

The New Mexico regulation change means that the state will not only pay for RU-486, but any new abortion drug that is put on the market.

"The new regulations allow coverage of all oral medications for pregnancy termination," New Mexico Medicaid Director Carolyn Ingram told the Albuquerque Tribune. "We worded it that way to cover anything new that comes down the pipe."

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson made the regulation change in August.

"People of New Mexico, especially those who voted for our current governor, we can now give deadly drugs to our women and to our teenagers without their parent’s knowledge, let alone consent. Eventually, we will have a Holly Patterson, and we will have helped pay for it," Dolce added.

Private health plans in New Mexico routinely cover RU-486, despite the many health-related concerns associated with it.

According to the New Mexico Medicaid regulations, women using RU-486 have to be supervised by a physician and receive the abortion drug from the doctor or a nurse rather than a pharmacist. The doctors can then be reimbursed for the drug.

In the mid-1990s, the state Supreme Court ordered then-Governor Gary Johnson’s administration to re-write the state Medicaid regulations to cover abortions, but that administration never implemented the changes. 

RU-486, also known as mifepristone, is promoted by the abortion industry as a popular alternative to surgical abortion. According to drugmaker Danco Laboratories, sales of the drug have skyrocketed over the past fiscal year. Abortion statistics from individual states show an upsurge in non-surgical abortions, an increase attributed to RU-486.

In Europe, RU-486 accounts for anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of all abortions. 

However, a number of physicians and lawmakers in the U.S. are calling for a review of the safety of the abortion drug in light of Patterson’s death. The 18-year-old received the drug from a Planned Parenthood office without her parents’ knowledge. An autopsy showed that RU-486 was the indirect cause of her death.

Related web sites:
Right to Life of New Mexico –