Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The risks of RU486 to pregnant women

Since the FDA approved the abortion drug RU486 in September 2000, more than 1.5 million unborn children have been killed by that method. A detailed new analysis by Chris Gacek for the Family Research Council "focuses on the additional medical hazards that many women face when using RU-486 to induce an abortion." According to the FDA, at least 14 U.S. women have died after taking RU486, and thousands have experienced "adverse events." (And probably only a fraction of complications are reported to the FDA.) Below are a few excerpts from Gacek's report (notes omitted).

On how RU486 may interfere with the immune system:
Dr. Ralph Miech, emeritus professor at Brown University's medical school, has published two peer-reviewed articles describing potentially undesirable effects related to RU-486 and its anti-glucocorticoid properties. First, he believes that RU-486's blockade of cortisol receptors on bacteria-destroying white blood cells may impede the antibacterial defense mechanism of the innate immune system. Such interference, he hypothesizes, played a significant role in the deaths of at least five North Americans in which there was a post abortion, bacterial invasion of the uterus and subsequent septic shock. Second, prompted by an article describing mifepristone-related adverse events with significant and unexpected levels of hemorrhage, Miech's second article argues that RU-486 appears to interfere with the body's ability to control uterine hemorrhage. Such interference, if true, would be a dangerous feature of an abortion procedure that is designed to produce a simulated miscarriage. [T]he number of hemorrhage/transfusion and serious infection cases revealed by FDA support Miech's concern about RU-486 and hemorrhage.
On comparing the complications of RU486 (nonsurgical, chemical, "medical") abortion to surgical abortion:
One significant study on medical abortion's safety and effectiveness was published by Obstetrics & Gynecology in October 2009. It compared the immediate complications that occurred after medical and surgical abortions. The study was conducted in Finland where there is a comprehensive network of medical registries that could be used to track abortion outcomes in that country's government-based medical system. From 2000-2006 all women (n=42,619) who had abortions up to 63 days gestational age were followed up until 42 days.

Overall, medical abortion had roughly four times the rate of adverse events than surgical abortion did: 20.0% of women in the medical-abortion group and 5.6% of women in the surgical-abortion group had at least one type of adverse event. Hemorrhage, as an adverse event, was experienced by 15.6% of medical abortion patients compared with 2.1% for surgical patients. Incomplete abortions were experienced by 6.7% of medical abortion patients while only 1.6% of surgical patients had incomplete abortions. The rate for surgical (re)evacuation of the uterus was 5.9% (medical) versus 1.8% (surgical) for all causes (hemorrhage, infection, incomplete abortion). In summary, the Finnish registries revealed that first-trimester medical abortions with mifepristone and a prostaglandin - typically misoprostol - resulted in: 1) 20 out of every 100 women with a significant adverse event; 2) about 16 out of 100 women hemorrhaging excessively; 3) 7 out of every 100 women with tissue left inside; and, 4) approximately 6 out of every 100 women needing surgical re-evacuation of the uterus.
An Australian study, Gacek notes, found that 1 in 30 women taking RU486 in the first trimester of pregnancy had to go to the emergency room. It also found that among RU486 abortions performed in the second trimester, "a staggering 33% required some form of surgical intervention." In the United States, the FDA has only approved RU486 for use within the first 49 days of gestation, but Planned Parenthood administers it through 63 days' gestation -- when the danger is perhaps greater.

The risks of RU486 to pregnant women are particularly relevant because the abortion industry sees RU486 as a cost-efficient means of expanding abortion. The percentage of total abortions that use the RU486 method has increased steadily since FDA approval. In Iowa and Minnesota, Planned Parenthood now administers RU486 through telemedicine -- so-called webcam abortions, which can be promoted in rural areas lacking immediate medical resources in the event of complications. And international abortion advocates are even pushing the use of RU486 (or its companion drug misoprostol alone) in developing nations. As Gacek explains:
The track record established by RU-486 makes it clear that the push for the widespread use of medical abortion in poor nations is inhumane and detrimental to the interests of the female patients who take these pills. First, unless ultrasound equipment is available, ectopic pregnancy cannot be ruled out. Second, access to clean blood for transfusions is a necessity. Third, a surgical procedure must be offered as the back-up for women who have had incomplete medical abortions. Therefore, all of the technologies, facilities, and skilled personnel needed to perform a surgical evacuation of the uterus must be in place for medical abortion patients. Those pushing for medical abortions in developing nations do so arguing that the short supply of medical capabilities argues in favor of making medical abortions available to women in these areas. Good conscience and good medicine requires us to point out that the exact opposite is the case.
Abortion advocates are promoting a riskier method of abortion (both in the United States and abroad) because it doesn't require the expense of having an actual doctor, surgical equipment, etc., nearby. But the absence of a doctor, etc., only further increases the risk! This thinking is precisely backwards if one is at all concerned about the health and safety of pregnant women, and not just about the expansion of abortion access and/or profiting from said expansion (e.g., in the case of Planned Parenthood).

For more, see MCCL's recently updated RU486 brochure (above right), which highlights the risks of the drug and discusses the introduction of webcam abortions in Minnesota.