How the FDA’s decision to allow the telemedical prescription of Mifepristone does (and does not) change abortion Part One: Easier for Abortionists

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

When the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was first considering authorizing the sale of the chemical abortifacient mifepristone (also known as RU-486), reporters used to ask me all the time how I thought this would “change the abortion debate.” I tended to respond that it didn’t change a thing, as the aim and the issue was just the same – the deliberate destruction of an innocent human life, just by a new and novel means.  

I still feel that way. Nothing in the FDA’s latest decision to authorize health care personnel to prescribe abortion pills remotely and ship them directly to women’s homes changes what abortion is or what it does. But moving abortion out of the clinic and into the home is a very strategic move by the abortion industry and that has the potential to put a lot more lives at risk.

Today we begin a three-part series examining how home abortions—“DIY” abortions– do and do not change abortion.

It makes things easier and more convenient – for the abortionists.

We’re told that letting women have these pills mailed to their homes after a short online interview is supposed to make the abortion easier and more natural for women. While it could (if they happen to be  some of the fortunate ones) help a few avoid the expense and hassle of a drive to the clinic, in many ways, the at-home chemical abortion is going to be a lot more difficult than a surgical abortion done at the clinic.

With a surgical abortion, so long as there are not unforeseen complications, the baby’s life is taken in a matter of minutes. Recovery will take some time for the woman, but she can be in and out of the clinic in a couple of hours.

Not so with chemical abortion. In addition to the time involved in screening and watching the mail box for the arrival of the pills, women have to wait a day or so after taking the mifepristone for that drug to begin working. (Mifepristone shuts down the baby’s life support system.) Then she has to take a second drug, misoprostol, a prostaglandin that stimulates powerful contractions to force the baby out. The whole process is bloody, painful and may take hours, or even days to complete – if it works. For many– the FDA says 2-7% – it doesn’t.

This is hardly what anyone would call an “easy” abortion.

And if a woman is at home, going through all this all alone, it can be quite terrifying. How much bleeding is too much? Are these gut-wrenching cramps normal? How do I know that I’m done?

Unlike the surgical abortion in the clinic, she may encounter her aborted baby face-to-face.  Will she flush the child down the toilet like you would a goldfish? Bury the baby in backyard with a ritual the way one would a family pet?

None of this is quick, none of this is easy.

Who it’s easy for is the abortionist and the clinic.  All the abortionist has to do is sign a few forms, order some pills, and spend a few minutes chatting online with his or her would-be client. He or she asks a few pertinent medical questions before getting the woman’s address, taking her credit card info, and sending her the pills. No scheduling a clinic visit, no women lined up in the waiting room, no clinical exam, no ultrasound, no follow up visit or exam to confirm completion of the abortion. 

At most, a few lower level clinic employees might be called upon to staff a hotline for those women calling in with problems. But most clinics can (and likely will) punt and simply refer women with serious issues to their nearest emergency room.

Easy, convenient – for the abortionist.  Not so much for the women, scrambling to find someone to stop the pain and the bleeding or to hold her hand when the baby passes.

On Monday, Part two of how chemical abortions do and do not change the business of abortion.