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Chemical abortions are dangerous

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Many studies have shown that chemical abortions are dangerous. Yet abortion pill supporters and even government agencies say the drugs are safe and effective. They want more access and fewer restrictions.

A new Canadian study shows that these drugs are more dangerous than we thought. They cause more problems and people go to the emergency room more often than we thought. Chemical abortions are more dangerous than surgical ones.

Results of the new study

The results of the new study, entitled “Short-Term Adverse Outcomes After Mifepristone–Misoprostol Versus Procedural Induced Abortion,” were recently published in the online edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine on January 3, 2023. The study was authored by Ning Liu and Joel G. Ray, two researchers from the University of Toronto.

Liu and Ray analyzed the records of 39,856 women who had chemical or outpatient surgical abortions of 14 weeks gestation or less in Ontario between 2017 and 2020. They were looking for any notation of “adverse events” (complications) occurring within 42 days of the abortion.

The researchers identified records of complications associated with both surgical and chemical abortions. However, the number of complications was significantly higher among those undergoing chemical abortions with mifepristone.

A total of 1,978 adverse events were reported, with chemical abortions having a rate of 28.9 per thousand and surgical procedures having a rate of 12.4 per thousand. These events included complications such as hemorrhage, infection, retained products of conception, the need for transfusions, and other issues. Infections were only slightly more common in the surgical group. But other complications were much more common in women having chemical abortions.

When looking at emergency room visits, the situation for chemical abortions was even worse. Slightly more surgical patients sought care at local emergency departments following their abortions than those having chemical abortions. However, the rates were considerably higher for surgical patients due to the nearly double number of surgeries performed.

Overall, researchers report that nearly 10% of patients who underwent chemical abortions visited the emergency room.

In line with prior research?

Previous studies have noted significant instances of failures, complications, and visits to emergency rooms, albeit not to the extent observed in these findings.

An organization named Percuity, led by a former leader of a prominent reproductive health organization, conducted direct inquiries with hospital administrators in the UK. Their investigation revealed that 5.9% of individuals who underwent chemical abortions between June 2019 and May 2021 sought treatment for complications related to incomplete abortions with “retained products of conception” at National Health Service hospitals.

Three percent of these individuals required surgical intervention for managing such incomplete abortions, while approximately 2.3% sought treatment for hemorrhage. (Further details can be found here).

A study led by Ushma Upadhyay, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, published in the January 2015 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, reported emergency room visits for 5.2% of chemical abortion patients. However, these findings received limited attention from the media and government authorities.

Unlike studies conducted within specific abortion networks or research centers, these investigations, including the recent one from Ontario, encompassed broader public populations and utilized government records.

Notably, these studies, reflecting real-world circumstances rather than controlled research settings, identified significantly higher rates of adverse events and hospital visits compared to those typically cited by the abortion industry to advocate for less stringent regulations.

A note for regulators?

This recent study is important because it shows that a new FDA protocol could be unsafe.

The FDA recently changed its rules. It no longer requires that abortion pills be given in person. Pharmacies can now give these pills without seeing the person who is taking them. This change is similar to what happened in Canada, where these drugs were available. The Canadian study says that Ontario’s healthcare system, which includes free abortion services and free mifepristone-misoprostol, is relevant.

The new FDA regulations suggest that American women getting mifepristone from local pharmacies may face more risks. Canadian findings show that more than one in ten women could need to go to the emergency room. Hundreds of women had problems like bleeding, infections, or other serious problems.

The Canadian report says that fewer than six women died from the chemical and surgical abortions studied. The report says that the actual number was hidden because of privacy reasons.

The FDA says at least 28 women died after taking mifepristone since it was approved in the US in 2000. Many more had problems. The new Canadian findings suggest that the FDA’s recent change in policy may make things worse for women using mifepristone.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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