By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research
Editor’s note. This appeared in the latest issue of National Right to Life News. Part Two will run on Wednesday. I trust you are enjoying this 41-page edition and are sharing its contents with family and friends.
Ever wonder why the industry developed the “abortion pill”? Was it just to have a new novel product to attract new customers? While that was part of it, it has become clear that abortion advocates see in mifepristone and misoprostol—the two drugs that make up the chemical abortion technique—not just a new non-surgical abortion method, but a way to maintain the availability of abortion if most abortion clinics ever close or if abortion becomes illegal or substantially harder to obtain.
And they’ve been taking steps, laying the groundwork for years to prepare for what they see as a realistic possibility.
How we got here
When mifepristone (“RU-486”) was first being developed and promoted, it seemed clear the abortion industry was looking for a new way to market a “product” that just wasn’t selling like it used to. Abortion numbers were dropping, women found surgical abortions intimidating, worried about the risks of surgery, and found the idea of abortion uncomfortable once they saw pictures of babies developing in their wombs.
Abortionists were increasingly being treated as pariahs within the medical community. More were quitting the business, clinics were closing, and try as they might, abortion advocates and their media allies couldn’t get the public to buy into the narrative of unlimited abortion as always necessary and always a “woman’s right.”
Chemical abortions were the industry’s attempt to alter that image. Instead of sharp instruments inserted into a woman’s most intimate parts, all she had to do (we were told) was take a pill (or two or three or four…). Then the body would “naturally” pass the child like a “miscarriage.”
They argued that the baby was smaller, less developed, hoping that would make abortion seem safer, sound more acceptable.
Proponents didn’t mention that the woman would bleed more from the chemical abortion than she would for a standard surgical one. They also dramatically downplayed the intensity of the terrible, painful cramps.
They chose not to highlight the fact it might not “work” and she’d have to come back for surgery anyway. They acted as though deaths of a dozen or more women had nothing to do with these powerful drugs. None of that mattered so long as enough women bought the hype and came to the clinic to buy the product.
Once RU-486 got approved for sale in the U.S., you might have thought the abortion establishment would be satisfied. Wrong. Right away, they argued over dosages (the number of each type of pill to take) and the number of visits women had to make to the clinic.
Advocates insisted women didn’t need to take three of the expensive mifepristone pills (which shut off the baby’s supply system), and didn’t need to return to the abortion clinic to receive the prostaglandin misoprostol (which stimulated powerful contractions to dislodge the then emaciated baby).
Many clinics simply ignored the protocol approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). They reduced mifepristone from three pills to one, and allowed women to take the misoprostol home to self-administer. Women died using the altered protocol, but the industry kept pressuring the FDA until in March of 2016 it gave in and made the regimen pushed by the abortion industry the official FDA protocol.
A pattern revealed
When President Obama’s FDA caved to the abortion industry’s demands and approved their rogue regimen, that should have ended it. They had their drug, they had it under the conditions they originally fought for. But it didn’t.
An esteemed group of scholars (self-celebrated abortion researchers and advocates, actually) came out in a February 23, 2017, editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine and said what restrictions remained were still too onerous.
They didn’t like regulations requiring prescribers to register with the drug’s distributor or having to certify their understanding of how the drugs worked. Most significantly, perhaps, they said they didn’t think there was any reason it couldn’t be sold in pharmacies or sent by mail!
These scholars disregarded more than a dozen deaths, hundreds of hospitalizations, thousands of injuries and stories of agonizing pain and copious bleeding from women all over the country. They boldly asserted the record had shown that women could manage by themselves so long as there was someone they could call in an emergency.
Interestingly enough, this call for the drug to be sold at pharmacies or through the mail revealed abortion advocates’ long range plans for the abortion pills. They didn’t simply want to have another type of abortion available. They wanted one that could bypass the clinics altogether.
Abortionists without clinics
Early hints of this effort to bypass traditional abortion clinics go back almost a decade, at least. In July of 2008 Planned Parenthood’s Iowa affiliate first began offering webcam abortions, abortions where women at a remote rural location interacted with an abortionist back at a clinic in Des Moines by a webcam. After a short interview and review of some medical records, the abortionist clicked a button on his computer triggering the opening of a drawer at the woman’s location.
Inside were the abortion pills. The woman took the mifepristone there while he watched and then took the misoprostol home to take later. She had the number for a phone hotline she could call if she had problems. Or she could just head for her local emergency room and tell them she was having a miscarriage. No doctor would be able to tell the difference.
Thousands of women had webcam abortions in Iowa, and soon several other states – Alaska, Minnesota, Maine, and Illinois – were copying the model.
Abortions by mail and on-line
This was still not enough for the pill’s promoters. Why should a woman have to go to a clinic at all, they asked, or even a small town storefront location? She was simply taking “pills,” pills they thought she should be able to pick up from her local pharmacy or even order over the Internet.
It wasn’t long before some of the country’s top abortion researchers/advocates were announcing “studies” to back such a proposition. In March of 2016, Beverly Winikoff, who helped bring RU-486 to the United States when she was with the Population Council, announced that her current group, Gynuity, was beginning a pilot study making abortion pills available by overnight mail to women in Hawaii, Oregon, Washington state, and New York.
The idea, of course, is to show that this sort of distribution works and is safe so that the method could be taken nationwide. (One wonders the number and seriousness of the complications Gynuity considers “acceptable.”)
Confirmation of such aims come in another study (available in the fall of 2017, but officially in the April 2018 issue of Contraception). Winikoff and several colleagues declared that the concept of women obtaining abortion pills over the Internet was “feasible.” This assurance, despite the fact that their own data revealed widely varying prices and shipping times, that pills came without any sort of instructions, and that some pills even arrived degraded in punctured packaging.
None of that mattered. Gynuity and the other abortion advocates had placed the FDA on notice that not only could Internet sales of abortion pills happen, but that it was already happening right under their noses. The not-so-subtle message was that pill quality and patient care could be better assured if such sales were legal and managed by responsible domestic suppliers like…, well, Gynuity.
It should be noted, of course, that though one particular brand of mifepristone (Mifeprex), used in conjunction with misoprostol, was approved for sale in the U.S. in September of 2000, the FDA’s current regulations don’t allow for private individuals to purchase the drugs over the internet.