In late July of this year, the RU-486 abortion pill was approved for use in Canada. The pill, also called mifepristone, and marketed as Mifegymiso, is used to kill a preborn child. By approving this drug, scientists at Health Canada are putting its stamp of approval on this so-called “safe and effective option”.
This is not only misleading, but dangerous – in more ways than one.
As you might have guessed, mifepristone is never safe for the unborn child. In fact, it is lethal: it works by blocking progesterone, effectively starving the developing child of needed nutrients – ending his or her life. Following this, a drug called misoprostol is taken to induce contractions.
The drug has been approved for use up to 49 days gestation – which equates to 35 days (or 5 weeks) after conception – at which point the baby’s heart has already beaten over 2,400,000 times.
It is sad to see a mechanism for ending life being celebrated as a tool for ‘freedom and choice’. Advocates of abortion are hailing RU-486 as a big win for women (the Toronto Star unabashedly proclaims, “Canadian women win gold – the abortion pill”). Yet, by holding on so firmly to a narrative that refuses to question any element of abortion, they are doing women a disservice. Crucial information on the drug’s negative effects is being ignored or dismissed.
Some are still willing to speak up: Renata Klein, an Australian feminist and academic, has released an in-depth analysis of the harms of RU-486. She comes at it from a pro-abortion perspective, but sheds an honest light on the serious side effects that many refuse to acknowledge.
In her recently re-released book “RU 486: Misconceptions, Myths and Morals” she describes adverse events such as excessive bleeding, hemorrhage requiring surgical intervention, and fatal sepsis. She notes that Finnish researchers found that 20% of women who took mifepristone experienced an adverse reaction – a number four times higher than for surgical abortions. For example, excessive bleeding (requiring a medical consultation and possibly even a blood transfusion) is a complication that has been experienced by thousands of women.
In Sweden, the drug made headlines in 2004 when it claimed the life of a 16-year-old girl named Rebecca. She had chosen an RU-486 abortion because she was told it was a ‘better’ option than a suction abortion. She was alone at her boyfriend’s apartment when she died due to severe hemorrhage. This occurred even though the hospital followed all ‘safety precautions’. The local publicity led other women to come forward with their experiences of similar severe complications.
This highlights a major concern: after taking RU-486 and misoprostol, women are most often alone. This could lead to life-threatening medical problems going undetected. Ectopic pregnancy (which occurs in 2% of pregnancies in the US) is a serious concern, as explained by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
“She will undoubtedly interpret bleeding and pain as consistent with a pharmaceutical abortion, since these are nearly universal effects of mifepristone and misoprostol. This leaves her with the immediate threat of serious harm, or death, if the ectopic pregnancy ruptures.”
Over the course of ten years in the United States, 58 women were hospitalized after using RU-486 with an undetected ectopic pregnancy, and an additional two women died. Yet the FDA still states that they believe “the benefits of Mifeprex outweigh the risks”.
Sadly, the list goes on. Death due to massive infection (sepsis) after taking RU-486 is another major concern, and it is surprising to see how little media attention this issue has received. The FDA’s adverse event report of 2011 noted that 8 women have died due to sepsis after an RU-486 abortion. This number does not include the additional documented deaths in the UK, Portugal, France, and Canada. How many more might there be in China and India, where RU-486 is used but no adverse event information is available?
This life-threatening complication is all the more concerning because – much like ectopic pregnancy – the warning signs are masked by the expected symptoms of the abortion.
RU-486 is often promoted as a ‘solution’ for women in remote areas who have no abortion facilities nearby. As Ms. Klein states in her book, the seriousness of these complications “again makes it clear how dangerous it can be for women in remote areas without access to emergency hospitalization to be told that [mifepristone] abortion is ‘safe and effective’”. (RU-486: Misconceptions, Myths and Morals, p. xix)
Despite all of this, we still hear the stubborn assertion that RU-486 should be available through telemedicine. Amazingly, Heather Mallick of the Toronto Star even calls for the pill to be supplied over-the-counter, entirely removing the requirement for women to see a doctor. This is an absurd and potentially lethal suggestion, revealing a distinct disconnect with the reality of inducing abortion.
Both Health Canada and the drug’s manufacturers have released strict guidelines stating that only physicians can dispense the drug, and that women must have access to emergency medical care. In addition, physicians are required to confirm gestational age, check for ectopic pregnancy and a number of other conditions, and be aware of drug interactions. The doctor must also know the age of the patient, since the safety and efficacy of the drug is not known for patients under the age of 15. These are not requirements that can be casually dispensed with, and to suggest that they should be shows a stunning disregard for women’s safety.
Given the many concerns about RU-486, it is with trepidation that we will wait to see how the landscape will change in Canada when it becomes available next year. What we do know is this: the womb should be the safest place on earth – yet in our country, where there are absolutely no limits on abortion, Health Canada has paved the way for another method of killing. Not only this, but they have put the very women they claim will ‘benefit’ in unnecessary danger.