RU486 The Abortion Pill - MYTHS

The abortion drug RU486 was approved on September 30, 2000 for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. In  Vancouver in July 2000  a doctor began the first clinical trials of RU486 in Canada.  In September 2001, following the death of a Canadian woman participating in RU486 tests, the trial program in Canada was cancelled.  At least 30 women worldwide have died after RU486 abortions. Some articles concerning RU486 include misinformation which could lure the public into falsely concluding that the dangerous drug provides a simple, easy abortion. Commonly called the "abortion pill", RU486 aborts an unborn child in a lengthy, painful and psychologically difficult process. The RU486 technique actually uses two powerful synthetic hormones with the generic names of MIFEPRISTONE and MISOPROSTOL to chemically induce abortions in women. Confusion remains about how the drug works. It is important that the myths surrounding RU486 be dispelled.


Myth #1: RU486 is easier than a surgical abortion.

While swallowing a pill is easier than a 10 minute surgical abortion, that is the only easy part of the drawn out, multi-drug, multiple visit RU486 procedure that can take weeks to complete. During the patient's first visit, a comprehensive medical exam must be undergone. Because of decreasing "effectiveness" of the drugs as the baby grows, (RU486 should not be given past the seventh week of pregnancy), careful dating of the pregnancy is important. The woman must not have any physical conditions which would make the drugs dangerous or deadly for her, must be responsible enough to return for the multiple follow-up visits, and must have a support system to help her receive emergency care if needed.

If the woman meets the criteria, she takes the RU486 pills in view of the abortionist. Over the next 48 hours, RU486 deprives the developing child of needed nutrients and he or she dies. Two days later, the woman receives a prostaglandin (usually misoprostol) to stimulate uterine contractions to expel her dead child. She remains in the doctor's office for four hours, waiting for the contractions, bleeding and abortion to begin. Severe pain, nausea and diarrhea are typical side effects.

While 50 to 70 percent of women abort during this second visit, many abort later: on the bus, at work, etc. Some never abort (the method failed 8 to 23%of the time in the U.S. trials). 

A third visit about two weeks later determines whether the abortion has occured or if a surgical abortion is necessary to complete the procedure. The woman must undergo a surgical abortion if the chemical abortion fails.

Myth #2: RU486 will make abortion more available.

Abortion proponents hope that once RU486 is legalized, more physicians will offer this chemical abortion than offer surgical abortion. A different scenario may be emerging.

Abortionists who participated in the U.S. clinical trials of RU486 report that it is "cumbersome and challenging". The protocol "caused considerable disruption for bathrooms to accommodate the nausea and diarrhea that resulted. Some providers concluded that medical abortions could not be smoothly integrated with other office or clinic activities or would have to be done on separate days"(Family Planning Perspectives, Jan-Feb.1999). In addition, expensive ultrasound machines would be needed to adequately size the early pregnancies and to affirm the abortion was complete. For "failed" RU486 procedures, the doctor must perform or refer the mother for a surgical abortion. The unborn child who survives the RU486 "drug cocktail" has a higher risk of severe birth defects. Many physicians who have already decided not to do abortions may also forgo RU486 abortions.

Myth # 3: RU486 will eliminate the abortion debate.

While RU486 is an earlier method of abortion, it still destroys a developing child. Even at 5 weeks (the earliest time for RU486), the unborn baby has a heartbeat and its body is developing. By 7 weeks (the outer limits for RU486), the tiny child has brain waves and is moving about in the womb. Some mothers will see their aborted baby. In speaking of the mother's experience through this long process, Edouard Sakiz, RU486's developer said "It is an appalling psychological ordeal" and "not at all easy to use".

Myth # 4: RU486 is "safer".

The physicians's largest obstacle to performing RU486 abortions is the hours of office stay required by women after ingesting the prostaglandin. Abortion proponents are callously disregarding women's well being and have asked FDA permission for women to take the drugs at home. This is in spite of the fact that at-home drug ingestion was not part of the FDA trials, neither is it the way it is practised in France.

Lacking an overseeing physician, women would be put at risk anywhere along the multi-step process. Excessive bleeding, especially among women who are miles from medical care, could be serious, even fatal. In the U.S. trials, 80 to 90 percent of women had much heavier bleeding than normal menstrual bleeding ; one woman needed a transfusion to save her life. In a key French test, 3 per cent of women needed medical attention, including transfusions for severe bleeding.

There are several, serious, well documented side effects associated with RU486/prostaglandin abortions, including prolonged (up to 44 days) and severe bleeding, nausea, vomiting, pain and even death.

RU486 should be strongly opposed because it kills an unborn child, can deform babies who survive the abortion attempt, has already killed and injured women and will continue to affect women's lives and possibly future fertility. The long term consequences are unknown. RU486 does cross the blood follicle barrier and gets into a woman's ripening eggs. Could this effect the reproductive systems of a woman's later children as DES did?

In place of abortion, society can offer what the pro-life community already offers to women - emotional and physical help (counselling, housing, job training, adoption help,etc.) True compassion demands we love them both.

Adapted and reprinted with permission from Life in Oregon Feb/March 2000.

Action Life Online Article

Last modified on Monday, 03 March 2014 17:26
Published in Methods
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