The Food and Drug Administration quietly expanded abortion access Wednesday. While we usually think of abortion being controlled by laws and court cases, this change was a careful relabel aimed at increasing access to the abortifacient mifepristone, or RU-486. The FDA approved its use up to 70 days after a woman’s last menstrual cycle began, up from the previous 49-day limit.
Several states, in an effort to protect women and their babies, limit medical prescriptions for abortion-inducing drugs to only FDA-approved medications used as directed. RU-486 is a common choice for medical abortions: “According to the manufacturer, since its approval, more than 2.75 million women in the United States have taken mifepristone to end a pregnancy early in its gestation, choosing it over ‘surgical’ abortion that involves dilation and curettage.”
While RU-486 use now comprises one-fourth of abortions, it’s not without significant risks for the mother, such as “Heavy bleeding, nausea, vomiting, and painful uterine contractions. About 2% hemorrhage and more than 1 in a 100 require hospitalization.” In addition, “For 4-5% of women, the pills don’t work, making them return for surgical abortions.”
Beyond the risks to the mother, there are the obvious consequences for the baby—that is, death. Three weeks after fertilization—which, given the usual timeline of a woman’s fertility cycle is approximately five weeks before the FDA’s new RU-486 cutoff—a baby already has a beating heart. We are not talking about contraception here, but the planned termination of a child with a tiny heart.
More Grist for the Abortion Mill
In utterly predictable news, Planned Parenthood is heralding this move as a leap forward for women’s health, “The FDA’s announcement is a significant step forward for science and women’s health. It means that health care providers can provide medication abortion according to the highest standard of care established after more than 15 years of research and experience,” said Jerry Lawson, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio.
The change alters the dose of RU-486, increases the window of prescription to 70 days from the original 49, and cuts the number of doctor visits required to monitor the procedure from three to two.
“In the end, it is obvious that the FDA’s new protocol serves only the interests of the abortion industry by expanding their base of potential customers, increasing their profit margin, and reducing the level of staff and amount of resources they have to devote to the patient,” Randall K. O’Bannon, National Right to Life director of education and research, said in a statement. “It is clear whose interests the FDA is serving. It isn’t the women, and it isn’t the babies.”
RU-486 Starves the Baby to Death
RU-486 is a combination medication that ends a pregnancy by blocking the body’s supply of progesterone, a hormone needed to sustain pregnancy: “RU486 is a synthetic steroid which works by blocking the effects of progesterone, the natural hormone which is required to maintain the lining of the uterus during pregnancy. RU486 starves the womb of progesterone, the lining of the womb breaks down, and it is lost along with the developing embryo or foetus.”
This means, in the simplest of terms, that RU-486 makes the mother’s body no longer nourish the placenta and baby. As they are starved, they stop growing, and then the abortion is completed by softening the cervix so the induced labor of a now dead baby can occur.
It’s not difficult to see the results. Expanding access to a drug meant to end a pregnancy with fewer follow-ups, a lower dose when it already has a measurably large failure rate, and increasing the length of time it’s permitted to be used is a recipe for more surgical abortions, more women in risk, and more dead babies. While we are all caught up in the madness that is this election cycle, we need to remember other things in the world and our country are still happening. Is this a move forward for women’s health, or is it a move backwards?
We have so many choices in our society. The medical landscape is constantly changing and expanding, but its goals should be to help, not to hurt. When we encourage women to end their babies’ lives instead of helping them mother, protecting the weakest and neediest among us, it is not the sign of a moral and strong society. We are only as great as our actions towards the most defenseless among us.