As the Fifth Circuit Court was preparing to review federal approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, the Washington Post published an interesting poll claiming that most Americans support the abortion pill. One of its questions was, “Overall, do you think the decision whether or not a woman can have an abortion should be regulated by law or should be left to the woman and her doctor?”
The vast majority (77 percent) of those who preferred “the woman and her doctor” think the abortion pill should stay on the market. These beliefs are clearly tied together.
But what if they knew that, in most abortion pill cases, there effectively is no doctor?
Most people have no idea that, because the Biden administration took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to allow direct mailing of abortion pills to homes across America, there is no longer a requirement of a doctor or in-person medical visit. The image of an involved doctor paints a false picture of how abortion is practiced in modern America—to which many abortion advocates cling. This false impression is reflected in their most widely used slogan, repeated by allied politicians: “abortion should be left to a woman and her doctor.”
The reality is that these mail-order abortions may be completely medically unsupervised: no ultrasound to confirm gestational age or rule out a potentially deadly ectopic pregnancy. No labs to determine need for RhoGAM to prevent future pregnancy complications. No testing and treatment for concurrent sexually transmitted infections to prevent future infertility. No verification that the person requesting the pills is a woman, rather than a sex trafficker, incestuous abuser, or coercive boyfriend.
Last week the Fifth Circuit took a closer look at how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—the agency responsible for making sure Americans have safe medicines—ignored its own rules from the beginning to fast-track approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, and inappropriately removed guardrails over the years. At a minimum, if the court’s preliminary opinion from last month holds, abortion pills could not be legally sent in the mail and non-doctors could not prescribe them—important guardrails that existed before 2016, when the FDA arbitrarily rolled them back.
With the advent of mail-order abortion pills, women and girls are made the administrators of their own abortions, in their own homes, with no medical supervision and often alone. For many women, having abortions in their homes, seeing their aborted child in the toilet, creates trauma in what should be a safe space.
The Washington Post is surely aware of this reality, but evidently decided not to dig too deeply into people’s views about it. It’s up to doctors to advocate for patients and educate the public—doctors like me, who pick up the pieces when injured women arrive in our offices and emergency rooms.
While abortion is never “safe” for babies in the womb, the abortion pill is four times more dangerous for mothers than surgical abortion.
As an OB-GYN who has practiced in Texas for nearly 30 years and delivered more than 5,000 babies, I’ve seen firsthand the trauma these drugs inflict.
Like more than 90 percent of OB-GYNs in America, I don’t commit elective abortions. But I’ve cared for dozens of women and girls who’ve suffered nightmarish complications from abortion pills, including urgent blood transfusions and emergency surgeries.
One woman told me her experience was “like a horror movie.” Hemorrhage and dead tissue remaining in the uterus leading to infection are common complications. Many women experience labor-like cramping, heavy bleeding, fever, chills, vomiting, and dizziness. Almost 40 percent describe the pain as “severe.”
On average, women and girls who take the drugs bleed for 9 to 16 days afterward. Eight percent bleed for more than a month.
Recently, I treated a young woman who had taken the two-drug regimen—mifepristone and misoprostol—in California. She suffered heavy bleeding all the way back home to Texas. This went on for two months before finally she came to me for emergency medical care.
It’s not normal or benign to bleed this way for months, but because women and girls are assured—recklessly and wrongly—that the abortion pill is safer than Tylenol, they’re shocked and unprepared when things go wrong. In their shame they may be afraid to seek medical help. They often don’t go back to the person who sold them the pills, who may even be in another state. Young teen girls especially may panic and not know what to do when the bleeding doesn’t stop.
The few who do return to the abortionist often do not receive the follow-up surgery that almost one in 20 women will need. They may only be given another dose of pills.
In the face of growing scientific evidence of the harms of abortion pills, the FDA is taking a “see no evil, hear no evil, report no data on evil” approach that puts countless women and girls at risk.
The agency performed no studies focusing on girls under 18, even though its own rules require it. Consequently, we don’t know how the abortion pills might impact a girl’s development. Could they affect her future fertility? Could they cause other serious health issues? No one knows, because the FDA was negligent in doing its job.
But the negligence didn’t stop there. In 2016, it decided it would no longer track any complications short of death.
This issue isn’t pro-life versus pro-choice. It’s about the health and safety of women and girls in America and the credibility of the FDA.
Many Americans have already lost faith in institutions like the FDA, perceiving that bureaucrats are susceptible to political and financial influence and that there seem to be two sets of rules. When the questions survey respondents are asked reflect reality, so do their answers: 75 percent agree the FDA should have studied the abortion pill’s impact on minors. Sixty-two percent aren’t confident the drug is safe, regardless of time on the market, since no side effects other than death are tracked. Sixty-one percent disagree that mail-order abortion pills are safe given the risk of coercion and abuse.
That’s a story the Fifth Circuit Court should bear in mind.
Dr. Ingrid Skop is a practicing, board-certified OB-GYN who has delivered more than 5,000 babies. She serves as vice president and director of medical affairs at Charlotte Lozier Institute (www.lozierinstitute.org).
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.