By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
Editor’s note. In Part One, Dr. O’Bannon provided the background to the very unfortunate reality that Doctors Without Borders is involved with a new website giving women instructions on how to use abortion drugs. It is called howtouseabortionpill.org.
Doctors Without Borders (the acronym in French is MSF) says they have “teamed up” with HowToUseAbortionPill.org “to create a free, open-source, evidence based online course on medication abortion, or abortion with pills” by means of “five animated videos.” In prior posts, Dr. O’Bannon analyzed the first four videos here, here, here, and here.
VIDEO#5 MSF Aborts, Abandons
The fifth and final video, “After the Abortion,” starts by telling women they generally don’t need a follow up visit with a “health care worker.”
“So long as she no longer feels pregnant, she feels in good health, and her bleeding isn’t heavy,” MSF tells her, “then everything is most likely fine.”
This seems likely to be every bit as irresponsible as it sounds. Since when is “feeling pregnant” or “not feeling pregnant” a reliable substitute for a professional medical opinion?
Even after cautioning that urine pregnancy tests can give false positives for 3-4 weeks after a chemical abortion, MSF still argues that followup ultrasound [to confirm the abortion is “complete”] is “not needed.” Yet to expect the woman to wait a month to determine whether or not the pills actually worked seems cruel, especially if they are going to then try to talk her into having a surgical abortion to “complete” the abortion.
What if women are troubled by seeing their aborted baby?
MSF assures women that “Millions of women around the world have abortions and have no psychological problems afterwards.” They mention “studies” which support the contention that “most women have no lasting or long-term negative feelings after an abortion” and say that relief is the most common emotion, but do not specify those studies here.
Citations are not given with the video, but the University of California – San Francisco’s methodologically flawed “Turnaway Study” is the series which is generally the most frequently cited basis for these claims. However, better, more careful studies and analysis appear to say the opposite, making MSF’s assurances look more like a spin or a sales pitch.
MSF assures women that most can return to work or school the day after the abortion, but caution them not to take a bath, use tampons or have sex to avoid possible infection. They do not mention here that women have died from infections they contracted in the course of their abortions.
But there’s more.
In the 5th video, MSF tells women that their next menstrual period should return in 6-8 weeks, but say that it can take longer, again, feeding worries that she might still be pregnant. To make things worse, her first post abortion period “may also be slightly heavier than normal.”
These five video “lessons” constitute what MSF believes health care and aid workers need to know to help facilitate chemical abortions in “humanitarian aid settings.”
While they admit there are some risks and safety issues, they minimize these for the sake of addressing what they think is the crisis of “unsafe abortion.”
Even if there were such a crisis (the statistical basis of this claim is highly disputed), the best way to deal with high rates of pregnancy- related maternal mortality is not the promotion of a new abortion method, but provision of clean water, antibiotics, basic medical care, equipment, and facilities.
Medicine is, first and foremost, about saving lives, not taking them. Somewhere along the way, Doctors Without Borders seems to have forgotten this, compromising both their mission and their reputation.
[The conclusion to Dr. O’Bannon’s five-part series will run on Wednesday.]