By Dave Andrusko
It’s par for the course for advocates of chemical abortions—medication abortions—to inform/reassure us that the two-drug technique is safe, safe, and safe, and to imply (or ignore) that they are often unbelievably painful.
And Shefali Luthra, writing for The 19th dutifully tells us “Medication abortion offers the options of pills that are safe and effective in terminating a pregnancy and can be taken from home.”
That, in a nutshell, is what makes medication abortions so seductive. It also is blatantly false. Chemical abortion risks genuine harm to women. Paul Stark, Communications Director for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, wrote
A large Finnish study found that chemical abortions produced “adverse events” in 20 percent of cases—almost four times the rate of immediate complications as early surgical abortions. That shouldn’t be surprising. Chemical abortions take longer than surgical ones. They cause more blood loss. They have a significant failure rate and can lead to infection. And, in some cases, they mask the presence of a deadly ectopic pregnancy because their expected symptoms are very similar.
The FDA reports 26 deaths of women in the U.S. (and thousands of other complications) connected to chemical abortion, and the inadequacies of U.S. reporting requirements mean that some complications go unreported.
But, to be fair, however, Luthra candidly does address the horrific pain many women go through,
[Layidua] Salazar took the pills and her pregnancy was terminated. Years later, she doesn’t regret it. She just wishes someone had warned her about the “severe pain” she would feel.
“I was not prepared for how much pain I would be in,” Salazar said. “I went through a huge deal of pain physically. I was nauseous nonstop.”
Soon after she took the pills, the cramping began. She knew she needed to go to the bathroom, but Emma could hardly walk from the pain. Her boyfriend had to come back so he could physically steer her to the toilet.
Two hours of blood and cramps later, she thought she was done. A week and a half later, though, she still felt nauseous and constantly exhausted. So she got another pregnancy test. It was still positive.
But even if the pills are safe, every patient experiences it differently. For some, the pain resembles cramps from a menstrual cycle. For others it can be excruciating — and difficult to manage without a nurse or doctor’s support. Some patients will even turn to the emergency room just to make sure everything is OK. …
“There’s a lot of bleeding and cramping, and some people get scared. It’s a totally natural response,” said Ushma Upadhyay, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco who has studied self-managed abortion. “When there’s that much bleeding you want to make sure everything is going as expected.”
And then, finally,
“It’s extremely difficult,” said Emma in Texas, who has had multiple medication abortions. The 19th is using only her first name because Texas’ laws prohibit abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. “It’s going to be more and more the only option for people in certain communities. We want people to not be so afraid of the pain that they continue with an unwanted pregnancy. But we want to be real about what they will experience.”
There are stories of how many women purchased their pills from overseas. Obviously, they have no idea of how extremely dangerous these drugs can be. Then there is the issue of “tak[ing] medication abortion pills outside the health care system, which is likely to become more common in a post-Roe world.”
It’s still safe, and still effective. But those medical supports — a physician’s advice, prescription painkillers if needed, and the prospect of an emergency care if needed — are harder to access, though anonymous doctor hotlines do exist for people using medication abortions on their own.
If we learned nothing else from these accounts, we know the importance of women meeting the abortionist in person—a precaution that these women took great pains to avoid.