RU 486, the abortion pill, is used to cause chemical abortions in early pregnancy. Since its controversial approval by the FDA in September of 2000, it can be prescribed to pregnant women of any age, even teenagers. Led by pro-abortion feminists in the 1990’s, the fervent sales pitch for its approval called for a safe, effective, inexpensive and accessible abortifacient. According to Planned Parenthood’s Alexander Sanger, it represented “one of the most important victories for women in this century.” To Kate Michelman of NARAL, it was the “biggest thing since the birth control pill.” All rhetoric aside, the reality of RU 486 is that after nearly ten years on the market, this “victory for women” has taken 7 American women’s lives (that we know of), caused serious complications in hundreds of others, and provided a new instrument for the abuse of women.
To produce a chemical abortion, a “killer cocktail” combination of drugs is used to ensure the deadly result. The FDA approved protocol1 calls for 600 mg of RU 486, or mifepristone, to be taken by a woman who is up to 7 weeks pregnant. This drug is a progesterone blocker, which deprives the developing baby of essential nutrients and causes him/her to die of starvation. Two days later, the woman is to take 400 mg of a second drug, misoprostol, (prostaglandin) to induce contractions that will expel the dead baby. On the 14th day, the woman is to visit her doctor to confirm that the abortion is complete. If it is not, a surgical abortion is necessary.
During the intervening time, the woman is in the “privacy” of her own home, bleeding an average of 13 days (or as many as 30 days), often very heavily, possibly witnessing the expulsion of the baby in the process. As gruesome as this may sound, it is a best-case scenario. Even so, pro-abortion feminists thought RU 486 could “mainstream abortion” by making it seem more accessible and natural. Unfortunately, the FDA approval of these drugs for such lethal purposes has unleashed a host of unintended consequences that have hurt women.
In the last few years, one news story after another has described an abortion forced on a woman by a husband or boyfriend who has given her a drug in food or drink without her knowledge:
- In 2007, a 21-year-old Virginia man was sentenced to 5 years in prison for trying to poison his girlfriend with the intent of trying to cause an abortion or miscarriage. Daniel Riase crushed two misoprostol pills and put them into 19-year-old Sharii Best’s drink, after which she began to bleed. She went to the hospital, where her 11-week pregnancy ended in miscarriage. She later discovered an email receipt for his purchase of the drug.2
- Also in 2007, a 34-year-old Wisconsin man named Manish Patel was arrested and charged with attempted first-degree homicide of an unborn child for trying to cause the abortion of his unborn twins. He obtained mifepristone from his native India and put it in his girlfriend’s drink. Darshana Patel never drank the spiked drink, but turned it over to the authorities after suspecting foul play. Testing confirmed the presence of the drug. Patel appears to have fled the country after posting bail.
- In 2009 in Alaska, Airman First Class Scott Boie faced a court martial for causing his wife to have an abortion. He used his computer to search for abortion drugs and got a friend to obtain misoprostol for him. He crushed up the pills and put them in his wife Caylinn’s food. She miscarried a week later, thinking it occurred naturally. She learned about his actions from a friend and confronted him.
- Thus far in 2010, a 38-year-old New York pharmacist, Orbin Eeli Tercero, has been arrested for causing his Pennsylvania mistress to have an abortion. He allegedly inserted misoprostol tablets vaginally during two sexual encounters. He also dissolved misoprostol tablets in her drinks, just to be sure. As she started miscarrying, she discovered the partially dissolved pill in her discharge. He is charged with the murder of an unborn child in the first degree.3
- Also in 2010, 31-year-old Jered Ahlstrom from Utah has pleaded guilty to unlawful termination of his girlfriend’s pregnancy. He put misoprostol in her food twice to cause an abortion. She delivered a stillborn baby 16 weeks into her pregnancy. He later admitted over email that he had caused her abortion.
- In a similar crime, a 25-year-old Maryland man, William Stanley Sutton III, spiked his girlfriend’s drink in an attempt to cause an abortion. He used a cattle hormone sometimes used to cause abortions in cows. Lauren Ashley Tucker went to the hospital complaining of a possible poisoning after consuming the foul drink that burned her throat. Both she and her 15-week-old unborn child survived. He was charged with reckless endangerment, assault and contaminating her drink.
In each case, the woman was pressured by the man to have an abortion and she refused. He took matters in his own hands and slipped her the drug. Other similar cases in the UK and New Zealand have also been reported. These incidents highlight the danger of violence to women who refuse to comply with their partner’s wish for an abortion. Equally disturbing is the idea that these news stories may just be the tip of the iceberg, for it is unknown how many “miscarriages” and stillborn births may have been caused by similar foul play that was never discovered. The availability of the RU 486 killer cocktail makes this scenario too easy to accomplish.
Unfortunately, despite the pro-abortion mantra that insists it is a woman’s “choice” to have an abortion, plenty of evidence exists that women are regularly coerced into having one. As many as 64% of women having abortions said they felt pressured to abort and 45% of men interviewed at abortion facilities recalled urging abortion. When a woman refuses to abort, it can be at the risk of losing her job, her home or her partner. She may be threatened with injury, abuse or even death.4
As a matter of fact, homicide is the leading killer of pregnant women.5 With 92% of women saying that domestic violence and assault is the women’s issue of greatest concern to them, it is not surprising that some women feel they must choose abortion to protect themselves from further violence. As it turns out, pro-abortion feminists have played right into the hands of the violent men in our society by promoting a drug that provides another means for men to forcefully impose their will on women.
In addition to the 7 American women (13 internationally) who have died after taking RU 486, FDA reports show that as of 2006: 116 women needed blood transfusions, 232 women required hospitalization, and 1,024 women reported adverse events.6 Since there is no mandatory reporting of RU 486 complications to the FDA, and because of the distinct possibility that a deadly infection may not be traced back to the use of RU 486, there is no telling how many other women have suffered serious complications or death from these chemical abortions.
A more recent study from Finland indicates that when using the abortion pill, 20% of women suffered at least one significant side effect. Of those studied, hemorrhaging occurred in 15.6% of cases, infection in 1.7%, and incomplete abortions in 6.7%. Compared to surgical abortion, the risk of hemorrhage was almost eight times higher and the risk of an incomplete abortion was five times higher.7 Other research suggests that the drug suppresses the immune system, leaving the woman more susceptible to infection.8
There are primarily two ways the RU 486 regimen can cause a woman’s death. The first is an incomplete abortion, where parts of the baby remain inside the woman’s uterus. As a result, the woman can bleed to death or she can develop a deadly blood infection and die of septic shock. The second most likely cause of death is a ruptured tubal pregnancy. Since RU 486 cannot abort a tubal pregnancy, ruling out that possibility is best done by ultrasound. Surprisingly, the FDA protocol does not require an ultrasound. As a result, the FDA reports at least 17 cases where women with tubal pregnancies took the drug, with potentially fatal consequences.9 It would seem that at the very least, there is a compelling case for vigilant care of women under this regimen, but instead, some abortion providers choose to shortcut care and focus on the financial bottom line.
For example, the abortion industry has tried to increase its profits by reducing the recommended dosage of mifepristone to 200 mg and by dispensing the drug to women up to 9 weeks pregnant, increasing the risks of incomplete abortion and other complications. Planned Parenthood offices in Iowa have also used a “telemed” process that allows an off-site abortionist to provide instructions to the patient over a computer monitor. She then presses a button on the screen which opens a compartment that dispenses the drug, reducing it to a vending machine abortion. There is no medical exam, much less an ultrasound or a two-week follow-up visit. Despite minimal doctor-patient interaction in this process, Planned Parenthood is apparently charging the insurance company more than twice the price of a surgical abortion.10
This lax approach to safe practices is the predictable result of the politically motivated and flawed FDA approval process in which the safety of women was sacrificed for the pro-abortion and population control agenda of its proponents.
Synthesized in 1980 by chemist Georges Teutsch, mifepristone (RU 486) was owned by French pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf. The German firm Hoechst owned majority shares in Roussel-Uclaf and traced its history to I.G. Farben, who manufactured Zyklon-B, the “human pesticide” used in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. With RU 486’s toxic effect on unborn babies drawing an eerie parallel to this regrettable history, both Hoechst and Roussel-Uclaf were extremely reluctant to apply for FDA approval or enter the US market with a controversial abortion pill that could trigger boycotts and product liability litigation.11
Enter the Clinton Administration. Heavily supported by pro-abortion advocates, Clinton overturned the ban on RU 486 in 1993, and was determined to fast-track its FDA approval. In 1994, with Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala strongly encouraging a licensing agreement, Roussel-Uclaf granted all of the pill’s patent rights and technology to the Population Council, a pro-abortion non-profit organization that conducts research on “reproductive health issues.”12
The Population Council created Danco Laboratories to market RU 486 in the US, but was unsuccessful in finding a US company willing to manufacture it. The best they could find was a Chinese manufacturing company, Shanghai Hualian, which had a history of violating US regulations and has since been found to be manufacturing tainted leukemia drugs.13 The company is a division of Shanghai Pharmaceutical Company, which is owned by the Chinese Communist government.
Since a manufacturing process was essential for FDA approval, any concerns about Shanghai Hualian were apparently swept under the rug in order to get this drug approved. This was one of many questionable decisions by the FDA.14 It waived its own requirements for unbiased clinical trials and eventually approved the drug under a “Subpart H” process for accelerated approval that is usually reserved for drugs meant to treat “severe or life-threatening illnesses.” Clearly, pregnancy is not an illness, and for the FDA to treat it as one illustrates how the twisted logic of abortion advocates has been used to distort the most natural, nurturing, life-sustaining process that exists on this earth.
Safety directives used in the clinical trials and in other countries, such as requiring an ultrasound to verify the age and location of the pregnancy, were dropped or watered down in the final FDA protocol. The “pediatric rule,” was waived, allowing teenagers to receive RU 486 even though the drug was never tested on adolescents. Since RU 486 by itself was not effective in completing an abortion, the FDA ordered use of the second drug, misoprostol, thereby mandating an unapproved “off-label” use of the drug. Searle Laboratories, the manufacturer of this ulcer medication, warned abortionists not to use it. As seen in the news stories above, misoprostol now appears to be the drug of choice for forcing chemical abortions on women without their knowledge.
Taken all together, it has become clear that RU 486 should be removed from the marketplace. The approval shortcuts, the ineffective protocol and the non-existent reporting requirements have allowed a drug regimen that at its best kills babies very effectively. At worst, it kills the mother or allows a third party to kill her baby without her permission or knowledge. Does this sound like a victory for women?
1 US FDA Drug, Mifeprex (mifepristone) Information, accessed at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/
3 Accessed at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/printerfriendly.html?articleid=10040816
4 The Elliot Institute, Forced Abortions in America, A Special Report, accessed at: http://www.theunchoice.com/pdf/FactSheets/ForcedAbortions.pdf
5 Ibid., p. 2.
6 US FDA News & Events, Mifepristone: Approval Process and Postmarketing Activities, May 17, 2006, p. 3. Accessed at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Testimony/ucm112562.htm
9 Willke, J.C., RU 486 Has Killed Thirteen Women, Life Issues Institute, July 2008. Accessed at: http://www.lifenews.com/int1377.html
11 Hogan, Julie A., The Life of the Abortion Pill in the United States, Harvard Law School, March 2000. Accessed at: http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/247/Hogan,_Julie.html
12 Judicial Watch, Inc., The Clinton RU-486 Files, April 2006.
13 Hoffman, Matthew C., Manufacturer of RU-486 Paralyzes Patients with Tainted Drug, LifeSiteNews.com, January 31, 2008. Accessed at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/jan/08013105.html
14 Wright, Wendy, RU-486: Killer Pills, September 10, 2002. Accessed at: http://www.cwfa.org/articledisplay.asp?id=1561&department=CWA&categoryid=life