The use of chemical abortion (sometimes referred to as “medical abortion”) is on the rise, and there is an alarming push to make it ubiquitous. A recent column for The New York Times advocates for abortion pills to be “everywhere.” But chemical abortion endangers women and ends the lives of their unborn children.
Billed as safe and effective by the abortion industry, the procedure is grueling and takes a toll on a woman’s body.
It’s a two-step regimen. The first step requires a woman to take mifepristone, which blocks progesterone preventing an unborn baby from receiving vital nutrients, effectively starving the baby to death. The second pill, misoprostol, causes strong uterine contractions expelling the unborn baby. With both drugs come vaginal and abdominal bleeding and cramping, according to the Mayo Clinic. In many cases, abortion pills also cause nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, headaches and diarrhea.
Because complications can arise as a result of chemical abortion, the Mayo Clinic providers advise that anyone who has an at-home chemical abortion has access to a doctor and emergency services. Between the years 2000 and 2018, the Food and Drug Administration’s reports that at least 24 women have died from chemical abortion and there have been thousands of other serious adverse events, including hemorrhaging and the need for hospitalization.
Sadly, today the use of chemical abortion is on the rise. The Guttmacher Institute this month says that although abortion in the U.S. is generally in decline the use of chemical abortion in the past two decades has ballooned. “Medication abortions increased from 5% of all abortions in 2001 to 39% in 2017, even while the overall number of abortions declined,” reads the report. Diving into the percentages, that means that — in 2001 — there were about 71,000 chemical abortions compared to 340,000 in 2017.
And, the number of chemical abortions is likely even higher than the data suggest because of, as The New York Times columnist calls it, the “underground market” for abortion pills. As the Times elsewhere reports, “The number of abortions performed in American clinics was lower in 2017 than in any year since abortion became legal nationwide in 1973, new data showed this week. But that does not count a growing number of women who are managing their abortions themselves, without going to a medical office — often buying pills illicitly.” That is, abortion pills are increasingly bought online or across the border.
Obtaining these drugs on the black market and with no medical oversight is dangerous not only because of the possible complications that come with any type of abortion, but even more so because medical professionals are needed to determine the gestational age and location of the baby with chemical abortion. The age is important because, for safety reasons, the FDA has approved the abortion pill regimen only up until 10 weeks into pregnancy. And an ultrasound is generally needed to accurately date a pregnancy because many pregnant women aren’t sure of the date of their last menstrual period. Locating the baby via ultrasound is also critical because, in cases where the baby is located outside the uterus, the regimen can result in rupturing an ectopic pregnancy which can lead to life-threatening internal bleeding for the mother.
With increasing numbers of women obtaining abortion pills on the black market, the number of complications and deaths caused by chemical abortion could be much higher than that reported by the FDA, especially in light of a lack of medical oversight.
It is troubling that, despite all of this, anyone would advocate for more chemical abortion and less oversight. People who really care about women’s health and safety should be very concerned about the rise in chemical abortion in America and look for ways to educate women about the risks.
• Jeanne Mancini is president of the March for Life.
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