RU 486: a chemical abortion

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What is RU 486?

This drug, which causes an abortion, consists of two pills and requires three doctors' visits, and it can only be used within the first seven weeks of pregnancy.  At the first visit, a woman is screened and counseled to ensure that she is qualified and aware of the risks and dangers of this technique.  If there are no red flags, then she is given the RU 486 pills (mifepristone).  These first pills are progesterone blockers, which cut off nutrition to the womb, therefore starving the child.  Two days later, the woman must return to take the second pill, a prostaglandin (misoprostol), which causes uterine contractions to expel the dead baby.  A final visit two weeks later is needed so that the abortionist can confirm that the abortion was complete.  In at least 8% of cases, the abortion is not complete and therefore requires a surgical abortion. 

History of RU 486

RU 486 was first developed in France in 1981.  In the United States, the FDA granted final marketing approval to RU 486 on September 28, 2000.  The Clinton administration played a vital role in approving this drug that is potentially life-threatening to the woman (and always to the child).  Under President Clinton’s directive, the FDA actively pursued a marketing application, allowed the Population Council to use data from foreign studies in their marketing application, submitted the application to an advisory panel stacked with known abortion activists and RU 486 supporters, and processed the application in just six months (while potentially life-saving drugs were taking as long as 17 months).  During the U.S. trials, one woman nearly bled to death.  Shortly after its approval, the FDA was warning of the many dangers involved with RU 486. 

Physical and Psychological Risks

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had released a report in spring 2002 that addressed the dangers of the RU 486 drug.  The adverse side effects reported were nausea, dizziness, excessive bleeding, life-threatening blood clots and infection, and respiratory distress.  The FDA reported that two women who used the drug had died and many others suffered ill effects.  Receiving the two drugs caused a fallopian tube rupture in three women who had ectopic pregnancies; one of these women bled to death.  Two other women developed serious bacterial infections, which in one case proved fatal.  A 21-year old woman had a heart attack three days after taking the two-drug combination.  She recovered, but questions remain about the connection of the drugs to the incident. 

The newest report from the FDA, released on April 30, 2011, revealed that 14 U.S. women have died as a result of RU 486.  This report, “Post-Marketing Adverse Events in U.S. Women who Used Mifepristone for Termination of Pregnancy,” also exposed the fact that:

  • 612 women were hospitalized
  • 339 women had such severe blood loss that they required a transfusion
  • 256 women had infections (48 of which were severe enough to lead to either death or hospitalization). 

Overall, there were 2,207 cases with adverse events. 

Aside from the staggering physical effects, women will also have many psychological battles to overcome.  No long-term studies have yet been done.  However, since the women involved are administering the pills themselves, they will likely feel greater personal responsibility for the abortion.  While women undergoing surgical abortions can only imagine what their babies look like, women who have RU 486 abortions have vivid memories of their encounters with their children.  Disturbed by her abortion experience, a 21-year old student shared, “It had two dark spots like eyes and a little skeleton not quite formed…I think about this often.  I haven’t talked about it to anyone.  I feel quite empty.”

New Marketing Ploys

Abortion providers have been lamenting the fact that their abortion clinics have been closing.  Still, however, they have been finding new ways to provide abortions for women who are not near a clinic.  One of the newest practices has been “webcam abortions,” in which a doctor will counsel a woman through a video and then a local non-physician will provide RU 486 to the patient.  This method is extremely dangerous for the woman because, if she experiences any of these adverse effects and she is not near a doctor, her life could be at risk.  Abortion proponents have been promoting “webcam abortions” for women in rural areas and also for women in underdeveloped parts of the world.  To have non-physicians overseeing chemical abortions (or sometimes even performing surgical abortions) is a prime example of how some are promoting the abortion movement over the health and safety of women.

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RU 486: a chemical abortion

0

What is RU 486?

This drug-induced abortion consists of two pills and three doctors' visits, and it can only be used within the first seven weeks of pregnancy.  At the first visit, a woman is to be screened and counseled to ensure that she is qualified and aware of the risks and dangers of this technique.  If there are no red flags, then she is given the RU 486 pills (mifepristone).  These first pills are progesterone blockers, which cut off nutrition to the womb, therefore starving the child.  Two days later, the woman must return to take the second pill, a prostaglandin (misoprostol), which causes uterine contractions to expel the dead baby.  A final visit two weeks later is needed so that the abortionist can confirm that the abortion was complete.  In at least 8% of cases, the abortion is not complete and therefore requires a surgical abortion.
 
History of RU 486
RU 486 was first developed in France in 1981.  In the United States, the FDA granted final marketing approval to RU 486 on September 28, 2000.  The Clinton administration played a vital role in approving this potentially life-threatening drug.  Under President Clinton’s directive, the FDA actively pursued a marketing application, allowed the Population Council to use data from foreign studies in their marketing application, submitted the application to an advisory panel stacked with known abortion activists and RU 486 supporters, and processed the application in just six months (while potentially life-saving drugs were taking as long as 17 months).  During the U.S. trials, one woman nearly bled to death.  Shortly after its approval, the FDA was warning of the many dangers involved with RU 486.
 
Physical and Psychological Risks
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report in Spring 2002 that addressed the dangers of the RU 486 drug.  The adverse side effects reported were nausea, dizziness, excessive bleeding, life-threatening blood clots and infection, and respiratory distress.  The FDA reported that two women who used the dangerous drug died and many others were injured.  Receiving the two drugs caused a fallopian tube rupture in three women who had ectopic pregnancies; one woman bled to death.  Two other women developed serious bacterial infections, which proved fatal in one case.  One 21-year old woman had a heart attack three days after taking the two-drug combination.  She recovered, but questions remain about the connection of the drugs to the incident.
 
The September 30, 2010, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) included a letter to the editor from three researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  These researchers discussed two cases of women who died from complications after receiving RU 486.  
 
One woman was a 29 year-old Hispanic mother of one who died in 2008.  Within a few days of starting the RU 486 abortion, she began experiencing severe abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea—all common side effects of RU486.  On day five of the process, she was admitted to the hospital with tachycardia (a faster than normal heartbeat), hemoconcentration (an increase in the concentration of red blood cells due to the loss of fluid or plasma from the bloodstream) and leukocytosis (an increased, abnormally high white blood cell count).  When the doctors realized that she had a massive infection, they planned to remove her uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.  However, she died from the bacterial infection that overwhelmed her system.
 
The second woman, who died in 2009, was a 21 year-old woman who was seven weeks pregnant.  She died 12 days after starting her chemical abortion with RU 486.  She experienced the same symptoms, but with additional hypotension (unusually low blood pressure), pleural effusion (abnormal accumulation of fluid in the membranes between the lungs and chest cavity), and ascites (abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity).  She also died of a systemic bacterial infection.  
 
In both these cases, the same bacteria were found.  Both women also received a decreased dosage of RU 486 and an increased dosage of misoprostol; the misoprostol was administered vaginally.  This method is not approved by the FDA, but it is consistent with an alternative protocol put forward by the National Abortion Federation when the FDA approved the abortifacient.
 
At least thirteen women have lost their lives from the abortifacient RU 486.
 
Aside from the staggering physical effects, women will also have many psychological battles to overcome.  No long-term studies have yet been done.  However, since the women involved are administering the pills themselves, they will likely feel greater personal responsibility for the abortion.  While women undergoing surgical abortions can only imagine what their babies look like, women who have RU 486 abortions have vivid memories of their encounters with their children.  Disturbed by her abortion experience, a 21-year old student shared, “It had two dark spots like eyes and a little skeleton not quite formed…I think about this often.  I haven’t talked about it to anyone.  I feel quite empty.”
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