Abortion Pill Is Not Safe

Jun 22, 2023

ORLANDO, FL – Some professionals in the fields of medicine, law, and politics are claiming that the chemical abortion drug mifepristone, which effectively starves an unborn baby to death, is “safer than Tylenol.” However, scientific studies are showing the exact opposite is true –– that mifepristone is unsafe for women. 

Mifepristone, taken in combination with misoprostol, forms the two-drug regimen that causes a chemical abortion. While it’s unclear who coined the phrase “safer than Tylenol,” among those touting the claim are former CEO of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards, New York OB/GYN Dr. Gopika Krishna, numerous federal legislators, and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Also, the Association of Reproductive Health Physicians has data stating that mifepristone is “as safe or safer” than commonly used over-the-counter drugs, and taking it is even “less risky than continuing a pregnancy to term.” 

These safety claims around mifepristone are now at the center of a court case in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals where pro-life medical groups assert the drug is responsible for many significant adverse events harmful to women and girls and should be stripped of its regulatory approval and taken off the market. A three-judge panel is expected to rule on the case this summer.

The basis for claiming the drug is safer than a traditional headache medicine comes from data by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The AMA states “major adverse events ‘are exceedingly rare,’ occurring in 0.3 percent of cases” and that “risk of patient death from medication abortion is near zero.” In other words, whereas Tylenol is responsible for 56,000 adverse events and 500 deaths per year in the U.S, the FDA is saying in contrast there were only 26 deaths and 4,207 adverse events reported associated with mifepristone since its 2000 approval.

However, in 2016 the FDA stopped requiring adverse reporting of chemical abortion except in cases of death. According to Dr. Ingrid Skop, an OB/GYN at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, these numbers for mifepristone are not the full scope of events.

“A recent analysis of FDA FOIA-obtained documents demonstrated that less than 5 percent of the expected complications had been reported to the FDA — and this is back prior to 2016, when they actually used to care and used to mandate complication reporting,” said Dr. Skop. Furthermore, she stated that using medication overdoses to gauge whether a two-pill regimen with only voluntary reporting requirements is safe or not is a “dishonest comparison.”

“They look at the number of Americans who die of Tylenol overdoses, which is about [500] a year, and they compare it to the vastly undercounted deaths that are attributed to abortion,” said Dr. Skop. She noted the comparison fools women into thinking mifepristone is nothing different than headache pills.

While drugs like Tylenol may temporarily relieve pain, the two-drug abortion pill protocol blocks progesterone, a hormone that supports pregnancy, and it thins the lining of a woman’s uterus and induces contractions to expel a deceased baby from a woman’s body. According to a report by the Family Research Council (FRC) titled “The Next Abortion Battleground: Chemical Abortion,” even with underreported figures from 2000-2021, adverse events regarding mifepristone included 1,045 hospitalizations, 603 events needing a blood transfusion, and 413 infections. Similarly, a study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute reported that “emergency room visits following a chemical abortion increased over 500% from 2002 through 2015.”

A Finnish study of 42,600 women titled, “Immediate Complications After Medical Compared With Surgical Termination Of Pregnancy,” found that 20 percent of women who have a chemical abortion experience a negative adverse event. The study also found that women are four times more likely to suffer severe complications than from surgical abortions, the most common of those were hemorrhage and incomplete abortion.

Mifepristone is manufactured under the label Mifeprex, and comes with a “black box warning,” which is the FDA’s strongest warning for drugs with major risks. The medication guide advises abortive mothers to expect cramping, vaginal bleeding, and that they may potentially see blood clots and tissue.

However, for women who often administer chemical abortion drugs alone and at home, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between the expected pain and bleeding from the abortion and actual life-threatening complications. Ectopic pregnancies, for instance, require an ultrasound to diagnose, usually involve major bleeding, and account for about 10 percent of pregnancy-related deaths. 

According to Mary Szoch, Director of the Center for Human Dignity at the FRC, “A woman is more likely to die from a ruptured ectopic while undergoing chemical abortion as she may assume that pain and bleeding is a sign the medication is working, rather than a warning sign that her life is in danger.”

What the Mifeprex packaging and FDA statistics also fail to show is the “tissue” mentioned in the package warning could be recognized by the mother as her dead baby, and there is no mention of the potential psychological repercussions from that experience. As Dr. Skop and Szoch write, “Chemical abortions are uniquely traumatic in that a mother must personally dispose of the remains of her aborted child, who may be visibly recognizable as a baby.”

According to Live Action, a pro-life news organization, women have described their chemical abortion experience as: 

  • “Emotionally scarring and physically horrible”
  • “The worst thing I’ve ever felt in my life”
  • “Searing, gripping, squeezing pain”
  • “Crushing waves of contractions”
  • “Like sitting in the middle of a crime scene”

The nonprofit Support After Abortion group studied post-abortive women and discovered after a chemical abortion “34% of women reported an adverse change in themselves, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide.”

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Comparing chemical abortion drugs to Tylenol is offensive and misleading. Chemical abortions harm women physically and emotionally and cruelly kill defenseless children in the womb. The abortion industry has an agenda of death that disregards the life of unborn children and the health of their mothers. There is a deliberate strategy to misinform people about chemical abortion and the science clearly proves that it is unsafe and devastatingly harmful to women.”

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