Behind the Abortion Industry Push for Chemical Abortions: Reason #4 of 5

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL-ETF Director of Education & Research

Editor’s note. Last Wednesday Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon provided NRL News Today readers with a succinct explanation of the “5 Reasons behind the Abortion Industry Push for Chemical Abortions.” As promised, last Thursday Dr. O’Bannon began fleshing out the five reasons, one per day. Chemical abortions are a crucially important “growth center” for the Abortion Industry.

Abortion-PillsReason # 4: Increase Income

For all the talk about “choice” and women’s health care, never forget that those who are peddling these chemical abortifacient pills are operating a business.

And if you’re running a business and intending to increase your revenues, there are a few basic things that you can do: sell more product, cut your costs, and/or expand your customer base. Study the recent history of the abortion pill in the U.S. and you’ll see each of these strategies in place.

It explains why a business—the Abortion Industry–that was losing customers was anxious to come up with a new product; it explains why they have promoted a different protocol than the one approved by the FDA; and it explains why they are pushing so-called “web-cam” abortions.

After abortions peaked in the U.S. in 1990 with 1.6 million, the number has dropped as low as 1.2 million.  Abortion rates among younger “customers” had been in decline for some time and women were being more and more turned off by surgical abortion (see Reason # 1).  Prices for abortions had not kept up with inflation and more and more doctors were getting out of the business (see Reason # 3)

A “new and improved” product offered the industry a chance to attract new customers or win back older ones (somewhere around 45% of all abortions are repeat abortions).  The industry had lost customers intimidated by the risks and indignities of surgical abortion or upset about aborting unborn babies medical technology was showing clearly to be both human and alive.

Chemical abortions, avoiding surgery and being used earlier when the child was smaller and less developed, gave the industry a way to go after those customers.

As described by those pushing the pills, these abortions would be easy, simple, and safe, nothing more than a matter of taking a few pills, going through the sort of cramps and bleeding a woman would encounter in a heavy period, and then over.

The actual experience would be quite different.  Women are given little idea just how painful these abortions can be.  They are unlikely to hear that they would bleed more from a chemical than a surgical abortion.  Ads and promotions will not tell women that the abortion and the bleeding would take days, or weeks to be completed.  And few will be prepared for the encounter with their aborted child.

Only if they followed the newspapers very carefully or did significant research on their own might they find out about 14 U.S. women who died after taking RU486 and the hundreds who have ended up hospitalized with infections, hemorrhaging, or undiscovered ruptured ectopic pregnancies.

But they will see the article in the woman’s magazine about the new “unpregnancy pill” that makes the baby almost magically disappear.  They will see the local news stories reading the clinic press releases about the new abortion pill coming to town.  They’ll assume that government approval means it must be safe.  So the industry will find more customers.

Women are not the only target of the marketing campaign.  As mentioned in earlier sections of this series, the industry has hoped to recruit more doctors with the promotion of this new product.  If a few doctors can be convinced that this sort of abortion is less complicated, somehow less offensive, and offers some easy profits, that will mean the product will be available at more locations, and that, too, will mean more customers.

A couple of things stood in the way of this expansion, however: the conditions laid out in the protocol (the way the two drugs were to be taken) and the cost of the pills.  The industry wasted little time in trying to address these obstacles.  

The FDA approved protocol called for women no more than 49 days past their last menstrual period to be screened and counseled, and then, if cleared, to receive three pills of RU-486, whihc they are to take there in the doctor’s office.  Those pills are supposed to shut down the baby’s life support system and cause the child’s demise. The woman is to return to the doctor two days later to receive two pills of misoprostol (a prostaglandin), taken by mouth, to stimulate powerful uterine contractions to expel the tiny corpse.   She is to return on day 14 to confirm whether or not her abortion is complete.

It was under this protocol that the FDA declared the drug “safe” and “effective.”

But the Abortion Industry saw requirements in this protocol that would drive up costs, limit the market, and potentially drive away would-be abortionists. It was already testing and arguing for alternate protocols before the FDA gave final marketing approval.

RU-486, or mifepristone, is a complex drug to manufacture and is imported from China, so it is expensive, about $90 a pill.  With three of those pills running $270, the cost of three office visits, the personnel to screen and counsel the patients, this did not leave very much of a profit margin, if any.  If priced significantly higher than the surgical method, clinics might have difficulty selling the new product.

In the name of increasing effectiveness and decreasing side effects, the industry, through trade organizations like the National Abortion Federation (NAF), offered several modifications to the protocol. These modifications offered dubious improvements in either safety or effectiveness, but clearly had the effect of increasing the abortionist’s profit margin.

The new promoted protocol reduced the expensive mifepristone pills from three to one, but doubled the dose of the misoprostol, which ran only a dollar or so a pill.  The NAF protocol allowed the woman to take the prostaglandin, misoprostol, at home, rather than returning to the office, eliminating at least one office visit.  That industry protocol also extended the cutoff date by two weeks, from 49 days LMP to 63 days LMP, thereby opening the doors to a whole new group of customers.  Reports indicate that many are performed even past this limit.

This not only leaves doctors with a new product to promote, but enables them to build their profit margin by cutting their product cost, reducing their labor and space costs and commitments, all while broadening their pool of potential customers by lengthening the cut-off date.

Web-cam abortions simply extend this cost cutting further. Rather than wasting time and gas traveling between multiple small clinic offices, an abortionist can sit at a computer at a central administrative office videoconferencing via web-cam, dispense pills to different women in dozens of remote location around the state.

That remote location does not have to be big, filled with expensive surgical equipment, or have a large waiting room.  It does not have to be staffed with high salaried medical professionals.  Any place with an internet connection can be set up as an abortion clinic.

Chemical abortions in America now number 199,000 a year, or at least 16.4% of all abortions performed in the U.S. (as of 2008).  Although these abortions do not require the personnel, skill, equipment, or facilities involved in surgical abortions, women in 2009 paid an average of $32 more for an “early medication abortion” than they did for a standard surgical abortion at 10 weeks (results from the Guttmacher Institute’s 2008 national abortion survey, Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health, March 2011).

More abortionists, more locations, more customers, and higher prices – it all means more money in the pockets of those in the abortion industry.

And from the abortionist’s side of things, all he has to do is dispense a few pills.

If a woman has problems, she can try to get to her local emergency room.   At least 14 never got there in time.

It doesn’t appear to come with a money back guarantee.