Father of American Abortion Pill Victim Shares Observations on Australian RU486 Death
By Randall K. O’Bannon, NRL-ETF Director of Education & Research
Perhaps no one understands the danger of the RU486 abortion regimen better than Monty Patterson. Patterson lost his daughter Holly in September of 2003 after she contracted a deadly infection during her chemical abortion. At the time, he knew little to nothing about the abortifacient and didn’t even know his teenage daughter was pregnant until he was summoned to the hospital.
Since then however, he has made it his personal mission to study all the medical, governmental, historical and personal material connected to the drug and to share with the public, hoping to spare others his pain and anguish (I have written about Patterson’s website here).
So if anyone is qualified to comment on the latest death of an RU486 in Australia, it’s Patterson.
On his website, “Abortion Pill Risks,” Patterson rehearses the few publicly known details of the case in which an unnamed woman of unknown age, gestation, and circumstances died “some days after” being given the abortion pill regiment at a Marie Stopes International (MSI) clinic in sometime in 2010. (See here)
That death only became publicly known in March of 2012. Australia legalized use of the drug in 2006.
Patterson quotes Angela Shanahan, a columnist from The Australian, expressing serious concerns and questions about the drugs’ safety and the government’s delay in informing the Australian public.
“Why did it take two years for her death to become public? RU486 was legalized after great public outcry… Did the authorities not think the medical profession and public might like to know about this?” (The Australian, 3/31/12).
“RU-486 (mifepristone) was supposed to be of huge benefit to women. The abortion pill was meant to prevent the problems associated with surgical abortions, the emotional and physical trauma and the ghastly possible complications, and suitable for women in remote areas which, as this poor woman’s death shows, it definitely is not.”
The same sorts of promises were made in the U.S. when promoters were trying to get the pill approved in the U.S., but there have been at least 14 deaths associated with use of the drug here since it was approved in 2000, including Patterson’s daughter Holly.
Now it appears that Australians may be getting a look at the drugs’ darker side. Patterson simply says, “Obviously, the debate about the risks of medical abortion in Australia is far from over.”
Patterson takes to task both Marie Stopes International Australia (MSIA), the abortion clinic administrator, and the the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Australia’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for their handling of the news.
Both MSIA and TGA refused to release details of the death, citing patient confidentiality. TGA did issue a notice telling doctors to take a more active role in following up with their patients and MSIA shared with the media that the coroner’s office had investigated the matter and closed the case without an inquest.
Patterson notes that the MSIA website not only fails to mention the death of their patient on its website or in any of its press releases, but doesn’t offer any real information about the risks of chemical abortions such as infection and hemorrhage, or disclose that “incomplete medical abortion may increase the risk of infection and is associated with discomfort as persistent or recurrent bleeding and pain.” Patterson would know, as this is what happened to his daughter Holly.
Though this fact is still not widely publicized, Patterson relates that the FDA “has already concluded that serious or fatal infection involving the bloodstream after medical abortion may be possibly related to the use of mifepristone and misoprostol.”
The Australian women is said to have died after contracting a serious strep infection. While infection deaths in the U.S. have largely been associated with Clostridium sordellii, medical research and literature suggests that either RU486 (mifepristone), which starves the child, or the accompanying prostaglandin (misoprostol) used to trigger the uterine contractions to expel the tiny corpse–or both drugs–may suppress the woman’s immune system, leaving her vulnerable to all sorts of infections.
Patterson finds that the TGA has limited use of RU486 in Australia. It has been classified as experimental, and the TGA has declared on authorized forms that “the agency is unable to vouch for the quality, safety, or efficacy of an unapproved product.” The responsibility for prescribing the product lies with the prescriber.
Patterson’s analysis is most cogent when dealing with the observations of Caroline de Costa, a medical school professor who advocated the introduction of RU486 into Australia. Speaking of deaths in the United States [such as Holly Patterson], de Costa suggested that those who contracted the deadly bacteria might just as well have developed the infection later as their pregnancies proceeded to term.
Responding to this idea that certain women may be predisposed towards such infections, Patterson declares
“The facts are clear, healthy women have died and have been seriously injured after taking medical abortion drugs to terminate their early pregnancies. For a healthy woman, medical abortion drugs that lead to a cascade of serious or lethal adverse events are the real problem, not the pregnancy itself. The risks of severe, life-threatening, or even lethal adverse events, such as infection or sepsis, have been documented in otherwise healthy young women who have used mifepristone and misoprostol for medical abortion.”
Shanahan, the columnist from The Australian, points out that official pronouncements–that doctors keep better tabs on chemical abortion patients–and the desires of abortion pill promoters to have patients administer the pills and abort at home are somewhat at odds.
“…the problem with RU486 is that precisely because it has been encouraged as a method of home abortion, the need for medical follow-up is not a big consideration, especially in the minds of young girls… If it is widely marketed by a drug company and, as de Costa and others envisage, replaces most surgical abortions, there may be less involvement of commercial clinics such as MSIA, but a higher rate of complications. The onus of handling these complications will fall on local emergency services.”
Patterson says that by his count, at least 21 women have died worldwide from fatal complications that include not only 11 infection deaths but also hemorrhage, toxic shock, organ failure, and ruptured ectopic pregnancy. This may be low. Patterson says that “Due to poor monitoring, unreliable and voluntary reporting to international authorities, it is unknown how many women have died from infections following medical abortion.”
Patterson speaks from extensive study and from personal experience when he says,
The risks of medical abortion can have a serious impact of a woman’s health. Taking an abortion pill may seem to be very easy, but can result in infection and complications that are serious and life threatening which could lead to hospitalization or death.
Patterson’s website, which contains extensive information on the risks associated with the abortion pill RU486, and the stories of women who have died after taking the drug, is www.abortionpillrisks.org.
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