Expanding Telemedicine Abortions Would be a Grave Mistake
Fights over abortion are moving to a new frontier as President Joe Biden's FDA considers allowing abortion pills to be prescribed and sold online. The increasing use of telemedicine due to the coronavirus pandemic has served as the perfect cover for pro-abortion advocates to push for the deregulation of abortion pills. If the Food and Drug Administration changes the current rules, it would be possible for a woman to consult with a doctor in another state or even a foreign country and receive abortion pills in the mail.
The Biden administration should reject this push because there are serious health risks associated with chemical abortion, and removing the current health oversights would harm, not serve, women. President Biden should focus on improving authentic healthcare for women, not changing an FDA rule that protects women.
Research by the Guttmacher Institute (a pro-abortion group started as a branch of Planned Parenthood) shows a rapid rise in medical abortions from approximately 71,000 in 2001 to 340,000 in 2017. If the Biden administration approves the sale of abortion pills online, this number will rise substantially as chemical abortions become easier to obtain.
Those in the abortion industry claim abortion pills are a safe and easy option, but the facts contradict this narrative.
To undergo a chemical abortion a woman has to ingest two separate pills. First, the woman must take mifepristone which blocks progesterone, stopping the baby from obtaining the nutrients it needs to grow, essentially starving the baby to death. After ingesting this pill, the woman takes the second pill, misoprostol which causes uterine contractions expelling the unborn baby. These pills cause a range of side effects, including vaginal and abdominal bleeding, and often nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, headaches and diarrhea.
Unsurprisingly, such a potent cocktail of drugs can jeopardize a woman’s health. Allowing unsupervised procedures without timely access to a doctor and an emergency room would be a grave mistake and flies in the face of what we know about chemical abortions.
A big picture survey on the safety of chemical abortion drugs shows there are serious risks. Data released in 2018 by the FDA shows thousands of adverse events caused by abortion pills, including 768 hospitalizations and 24 deaths since 2000.
These risks will increase if an expansion in telemedicine abortion removes the current oversights that protect women, such as a doctor performing an ultrasound to rule out a deadly ectopic pregnancy (where the baby attaches to the fallopian tubes, not the uterine wall) and determining the gestational age of the baby. These determinations are impossible to make over the course of an online visit, and doctors shouldn't be encouraged to prescribe drugs without performing an accurate risk assessment.
Current guidelines say abortion pills should be taken only during the first ten weeks of pregnancy and a peer-reviewed study shows that there are negative consequences when women ingest abortion pills after ten weeks. Thirty-percent of women in this study took abortion pills after the recommended date, and out of that group, 62% had incomplete abortions, while 12.5% had to have a surgical evacuation and a blood transfusion.
The obstetricians who conducted this study argue the results show, "Unsupervised medical abortion can lead to increased maternal morbidity and mortality."
Another study from Finland found that women are four times more likely to experience serious side effects and complications from chemical abortions than from a surgical procedure. Claims by groups like Planned Parenthood that abortion pills are safe disintegrate when the actual data is analyzed. These drugs are extremely powerful, and pretending that an abortion-inducing drug is “safe and highly effective” does a disservice to women.
Dismantling limits on how women can obtain these drugs is a foolish move that would prove the Biden administration is more interested in political considerations than in following the science.
If President Biden is genuinely concerned about women's health, he should not expand chemical, at-home abortion. Women would suffer the most from this politically motivated change in policy, as they would be given dangerous drugs with unpredictable complications and told they are safe to use at home and without medical supervision.
Jeanne Mancini is president of March for Life.