By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
There have been a rash of articles in media of late pushing the line that informed consent laws, laws limiting chemical abortions, and challenges to so-called “web-cam abortions” are totally unnecessary, just pro-life ploys to put more obstacles in the way of women getting the “reproductive health care” they want and need.
They say that chemical abortions are safe, rather simple, sort of like a “heavy period,” that women get all the medical attention they need, that they are glad to be able to abort in the privacy of their own homes.
Try telling that to “Kay,” a married, “pro-choice” doctoral student in her late twenties who went through a horrific chemical abortion earlier this year courtesy of her area Planned Parenthood.
Kay’s story is featured on abortionpillrisks.org, the website founded and maintained by Monty Patterson. Since losing his daughter Holly to an infection connected with her chemical abortion in 2003, Mr. Patterson has devoted much of the last ten years to collecting and publicizing medical data and personal stories about RU-486 abortions
(RU-486 abortions employ at least two drugs. Mifepristone shuts down the unborn baby’s life support system, and misoprostol, a prostaglandin, which initiates powerful uterine contractions to expel the emaciated corpse.)
September 17th marks the 10th anniversary of Holly Patterson’s death.
Kay survived her chemical abortion, but said, “The whole ordeal was awful.” She described a nightmare from the moment she showed up at Planned Parenthood through the next several weeks.
Arriving at her appointment, Planned Parenthood made her husband stay in the waiting room while they brought her back for what Kay described as “an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound that took nearly 45 minutes.” Yes, that would be the same “invasive” trans-vaginal ultrasound that allies of Planned Parenthood have likened to rape in other contexts. As we have noted on many occasions (and verified by Kay’s account), the use of such ultrasounds appears to be standard procedure at Planned Parenthood.
She was then directed to watch a video on the abortion pill which, according to Kay, “described the process very superficially” and compared it a “heavy period.”
Kay had questions she wanted to ask the abortionist, but he had little time for her.
“In less than two minutes the physician covered the four medicines he was giving me [the abortifacient mifepristone, the prostaglandin misoprostol to induce contractions, plus drugs for pain and nausea]…, the procedure, and what I ought to expect.”
When he finished and she began to ask questions, “he handed me a one-page printout with drawn diagrams and said, ‘This will cover everything you need to know’.” When Kay pressed him, the doctor told her
“Don’t be so anal about this. The hardest part, getting here, is over. Just follow the directions on the printout. All the information you need is there.”
When Kay pointed out that one instruction he had given her personally — not to take anything with aspirin, which is a blood thinner — was not on the page he handed her, the abortionist told her, “If you have any problems call the number on the handout and don’t put anything in you vagina – fingers, crayons, etc. – for three weeks.”
Kay notes “That was the end of our ‘consultation.’” It lasted ten minutes.
She took the RU-486 there in the office and took the other pills home in a brown paper bag.
She took the prostaglandin misoprostol two days later, “follow[ing] the directions exactly,” and sat in a warm bath, waiting for the drugs to take effect.
Within 15 minutes of the pills dissolving, she felt heavy pressure in her lower abdomen and “uncontrollable cramping.” She felt so much pain she says she nearly fainted.
She was in such pain, she called her husband and says she “told him I was dying.” In her words, the pain was “unimaginable,” “Indescribable,” “the worst pain I have ever felt.” Kay says “With every cramp I felt my heart race and my blood pressure plummet.” She says she felt “nauseated, dizzy and lightheaded.”
By the time her husband got home, “the water in the tub was colored red by blood and our dog was barking like mad in-between my screams.”
When her husband called the emergency number given them by the clinic and described the situation, the people on the other end of the phone labeled this “normal” and said she did not need to go to the hospital.
They suggested she take some more pain pills if she was “uncomfortable,”
Kay said. It was also then that they told her husband that she should not be in the tub because an infection could enter the uterus [such infections killed Holly Patterson and at least seven other chemical abortion patients]. This instruction, Kay noted, was yet one more not on the information sheet she’d received.
Her husband got her out of the tub, and into the bed. She took more pain pills, totaling four hydrocodones in less than an hour and a half, but these “barely cut the pain.” Kay says, “I faded in and out, shivering and sweating.”
It was then, with her husband lying next to her, that Kay says, “I went through the worst experience of my life.”
“After two hours of this,” Kay says, “I felt a rush of blood and a large lemon-sized clot came out. I assume that was the pregnancy. I was horrified. Why hadn’t anyone told me that it would be like this?”
Her husband cleaned the blood off her, cleaned up the towels, changed the sheets, dressed her because she was too weak from the pain. She took two more pain pills and finally slept.
A follow-up trans-vaginal ultrasound at three weeks confirmed that the abortion had occurred and that there were no signs of infection.
But the process was far from over.
Kay says “I still bled for the next five weeks. Sometimes it would just be spotting, but at other times there would be gushes of blood.”
She mentions one particular afternoon, a month or so later, when she was getting out of the car and felt a gush. She thought she had simply had a sudden loss of bladder control, but when she stood up, she found the seat of the car “was covered in blood.”
“There was blood everywhere – on the seat, on the floor of the car, on the back of my skirt, down my legs (and completely soaked through the mega-pad that Planned Parenthood had recommended.”
When her husband called the emergency number again, he was again informed that this was “normal.” And once again, he was told that she didn’t need to go to the hospital – unless this was happening continuously.
There were other occasions when she bled through her pad and her pants during meetings. “Embarrassed,” Kay says, “I spent most of my time depressed and hiding at home.”
One should keep in mind that, to Planned Parenthood, Kay’s experience was “normal.” As far as they are concerned, she experienced no reportable complication and is likely to be counted as one more successful chemical abortion.”
Kay, though, saw her ordeal as “awful,” as “traumatic.” She was not happy with Planned Parenthood or the way they treated her.
“I was angry that I hadn’t been sufficiently told or warned about the potential dangers and side effects of the medical [chemical] abortion.”
She told this to a friend who suggested that “Planned Parenthood probably didn’t want to ‘scare me away from having an abortion.’”
Kay, unrepentant about her abortion and still “pro-choice” to the core, still says efforts to “help women make the difficult choice to end their pregnancy” should not “come at the expense of fully informing them.” If she had been given all the information, Kay says she would have opted for the surgical procedure.
Kay says, “I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be a teenager or even a young woman going through that experience.” She had her husband with her, but says “What I keep thinking about is, ‘What if I had been alone?’”
The trouble is, of course, that many women, including many teenagers, do go through these traumatic abortions all alone. Some, in places where Planned Parenthood does webcam abortions, never even spend time in the same room as a doctor, much less even ten minutes.
And all a woman gets with her pills is a handout with limited information and maybe a scrap of paper with a phone number on it to call in an emergency. Note that turning a bath tub red with her blood or bleeding all over her car apparently does not qualify!
The new chemical abortion methods aren’t safer, aren’t easier, and they certainly aren’t almost painless. And the only reason women might think otherwise is because someone hasn’t shared the whole truth with them, the truth about what these abortions are like and what they do to women and to their unborn children.
And as result, those women have been exploited, traumatized, and injured.
That’s why these laws are needed.
Even a “pro-choicer” like Kay will tell you that women are not being given the whole story.