August 20, 2022

The new battleground: medication abortion

With abortion clinics closing their doors across the United States and more than half of the states restricting abortion to some extent, pro-choice advocates are promoting “medication abortions” or “chemical abortions”. These do not require a visit to an abortion clinic; the drugs can be prescribed by telemedicine, they can even be ordered online from overseas doctors and pharmacies, although this is illegal.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion think tank, medication abortions currently account for more than half of American abortions. However, even these are restricted. In two of the 50 states they are banned; in 29 states they must be prescribed by a physician; and in 19 states they must be taken in the presence of a doctor – which is an effective ban on telemedicine.

Because the US Supreme Court has overruled Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden has thrown the weight of the federal government behind the medication abortion option. In a July 8 executive order, he directed the Department of Health and Human Services to “protect and expand access to abortion care, including access to medication that the FDA approved as safe and effective over twenty years ago”.

The FDA approved the use of the twin drugs Mifepristone and Misoprostol in 2000 and abortion advocates claim that they are safe and effective if used at nine weeks gestation or less.

The New York Times, along with other media outlets and politicians, recommends that the FDA’s approval should pre-empt state bans and restrictions. There is a precedent for this, it argued in an editorial: in 2014 Massachusetts tried to ban Zohydro, an FDA-approved prescription painkiller. The move was struck down in a federal district court.

Actually, Zohydro is an odd choice as a precedent. The FDA did approve it in 2013, but after ignoring the objections of a scientific advisory panel, which had voted 11 to 2 against doing so.

Like everything else in the abortion debate, the facts about medication abortion are disputed. It’s clearly not risk-free. According to the FDA, 26 American women have died after using Mifepristone for their abortions.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life think tank, claims that “Chemical abortion has a complication rate four times that of surgical abortion, and as many as one out of five women will suffer a complication.” It also points out that medication abortions have unpredictable social effects. “With no medical oversight, abortion pills can fall into the hands of traffickers and abusive partners. Already, there are accounts of women being given abortion pills without their knowledge and against their will.”

Texas has passed a law restricting medication abortions to women who are seven weeks pregnant. Its preamble declares:

“the use of Mifeprex or mifepristone presents significant medical complications including, but not limited to,  uterine hemorrhage, viral infections, abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, headache, fatigue, and pelvic inflammatory disease; and the failure rate and risk of complications increases with advancing gestational age.”

Pro-abortion activists describe such claims as “misinformation” – or simply as lies. But they are well documented in medical journals. Hopefully we will discover who is misinforming whom as soon as possible.