Denise J. Hunnell, MD

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Mifeprestone: a pill that kills

Denise J. Hunnell, MD
By Denise Hunnell MD

(Zenit.org) – I started to feel pain in my abdomen unlike anything I had ever experienced.  Then the blood came.  It was gushing out of me…I sat there for hours…bleeding, throwing up into the bathroom trashcan, crying and sweating.

These are the words of Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director and now pro-life activist, describing her abortion using the drug RU-486, also known as mifepristone. She recovered from this horrendous ordeal after eight weeks of severe pain, bleeding and exhaustion.

Unfortunately, her experience is not unique. Even the National Abortion Federation, a pro-abortion advocacy group, admits that such side effects are the rule, not the exception, for abortions using mifepristone, commonly also referred to as medical abortions. Nausea, severe pain, heavy bleeding, diarrhea, fever and chills are part of the process. The known but less universal side effects are bleeding severe enough to require a blood transfusion, infection and/or death.

This brutal option for first trimester abortion was developed in France in the 1980s. It works by blocking progesterone, a key hormone that maintains the lining of the uterus to support the developing fetus. In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of mifepristone in the United States under a fast tracked approval process normally reserved for unique life-saving therapies. This allowed the marketing of mifepristone without holding it to the usual standards of safety and efficacy. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint soundly criticized the process:

Defining pregnancy as a life-threatening illness was a thoroughly political, not scientific, decision. Any reasonable person committed to protecting the health and safety of women should conclude that the approval process for RU-486 deserves an independent review.

RU-486 is marketed under the brand name Mifeprex.

Such critiques notwithstanding, there continues to be an expansion of the availability and utilization of mifepristone. The 2008 Center for Disease Control (CDC) surveillance report on abortion indicates that 14.6% of abortions were medical abortions, meaning they used mifepristone. This is in comparison to 3.4% of all abortions in 2001, the first full year after the FDA approved RU-486. By April, 2011, the FDA reported 1.52 million women in the United States had chosen to abort their children using mifepristone. Internationally, the use of mifepristone is also expanding. The United Kingdom Department of Health reported in 2009 that 40% of all abortions performed in England and Wales were accomplished using mifepristone. In Scotland, 80% of abortions done prior to nine weeks gestation and 74% of all abortions use mifepristone. Mifepristone is widely used throughout Europe with the exceptions of Ireland and Poland. It is also used extensively in Australia, New Zealand, India, China and Taiwan.

With nearly two decades of worldwide use of this abortion facient drug, what do we know about the safety and longterm effects of mifepristone? In the United States, the FDA post-marketing report of adverse events associated with mifepristone had 2,200 cases of significant side effects including blood loss requiring transfusions, serious infections, and death. It is important to note that reporting of these adverse events is entirely voluntary so they do not represent a comprehensive documentation of bad outcomes associated with mifepristone. Fourteen deaths in the United States have been linked to mifepristone. The FDA has also received reports of five mifepristone-related deaths in foreign countries. Half of these deaths were related to severe infections. In fact, of the 256 cases of mifepristone-related infections reported to the FDA, roughly 20% were deemed severe because they resulted in death, hospitalization for two or more days, or required intravenous antibiotics for at least 24 hours. A correlation between mifepristone use and infections has been detailed by Dr. Ralph P. Miech, Professor Emeritus at Brown University School of Medicine, who published an article in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy postulating that the immunosuppressant properties of mifepristone contributed to the development of septic shock in women who underwent a medical abortion.

An extensive review of adverse effects of mifepristone users in Finland was published in the October 2009 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. The authors reviewed the medical course of 22,368 women who underwent a medical abortion with mifepristone and 20,251 women who underwent a standard surgical abortion. The complication rate was four times higher among women who used mifepristone. A significant finding in this review was that 6.7% of women who underwent a medical abortion required further treatment because they had an incomplete abortion. This means they did not completely expel the fetus and placenta. Failure to remove this retained tissue can result in septic shock and death.

The incidence of incomplete abortion was even more pronounced in a Chinese study of mifepristone use. Published in 2011 in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, this study found that 20% of medical abortions required subsequent surgical intervention because of retained fetal tissue.

In addition to the risks of severe hemorrhage, retained fetal tissue, and life-threatening infections, a medical abortion can obscure the presence of an ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy located outside the womb. There were 58 cases of mifepristone use with an ectopic pregnancy reported to the FDA, including two deaths. An ectopic pregnancy is a contraindication for medical abortion, but the prescribing guidelines for mifepristone do not include the routine use of ultrasound, which is the only way an ectopic pregnancy can be excluded. Unfortunately, the cramping and bleeding expected with mifepristone mimic the signs and symptoms of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. This causes women with undiagnosed ectopic pregnancies who use mifepristone to delay seeking emergency treatment and risk death.

Clearly the potential for life-threatening complications underscores the need for mifepristone to be used under close medical supervision and with comprehensive medical follow-up. Yet this is exactly the opposite approach taken by Planned Parenthood and others seeking to make abortion more available. The National Abortion Federation reports that 87% of all counties in the United States have no abortion provider. Therefore, Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates are seeking to bring abortion to these counties via “telemed abortions.” In this controversial procedure, a nurse or other midlevel medical practitioner examines the patient. After the initial examination, a doctor conducts a video interview of the patient, then presses a button which remotely opens a drawer containing the mifepristone and so that the patient may self-administer the mifepristone. Obviously, the doctor providing the medical abortion does not intend to deal with the potentially lethal consequences. The local medical facility and physicians that do not provide abortions are left to care for the patient with complications brought on by a medical abortion initiated by a doctor that may well be hundreds of miles away. Fortunately, five states (Arizona, Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Tennessee) have banned telemed abortions. Hopefully, more states will join them in preventing what has been termed “hit-and-run” abortions.

The loss of 1.5 million children in the United States alone through medical abortions is an unspeakable tragedy. This tragedy is compounded when the mothers of these children suffer and sometimes die from a medication that Planned Parenthood claims is natural and makes an abortion more akin to a miscarriage. The bypassing of normal FDA clinical safety trials for RU-486 and the advancement of telemed abortions in spite of the real risk of deadly complications make it clear that the abortion industry is more concerned with its own profits than it is with the health and welfare of women. Those who promote abortion, whether surgical or medical, are waging the real “war on women.”

This article appeared on Zenit.org and is reprinted with permission.


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African denounces Western elites pushing population control in his country

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By Ben Johnson

An op-ed in one of the leading publications in Uganda has denounced the promotion of IUD use and other long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) in the nation as a colonialist form of population control.

An article published in New Vision, which bills itself as “Uganda's leading daily,” and which was posted online after being translated into broken English, contradicts the frequent claim that there is a desperate cry from Africans and brown people generally to provide the “unmet need” for contraception in the Third World.

Programs to convince African women to use the IUD or other forms of contraception “are projects of multibillion international agencies distributing them under the guise of helping the poor countries to control birth rates,” Stephen Wabomba wrote.

The use of the IUD leads to an increase in “the spread of STIs/HIV/AIDS, infections or increased rates of Pelvic Infection Diseases (PID),” and other maladies, he said. The IUD, which is inserted into the uterus and may work for years at a time, offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases and often does not prevent fertilization.

Western governments and NGOs are very much “aware of the side effect[s] but still force them on us through sensational marketing strategies by claiming that there is unmet need” for contraception “in Uganda,” he wrote.

He instead suggested the use of Natural Family Planning methods as the “best alternative” for married couples, as well as increased “funding of chastity and abstinence education in Uganda.”

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He called on every citizen of Uganda “to stand up and be counted as a lover of life” and become a “protector of the voiceless and defenseless unborn children being aborted every day.”

Wabomba is heeding his own advice by acting as director of the Pregnancy Help Center in Jinja, the second largest city in Uganda. The town of 87,000 is perched on the shores of Lake Victoria.


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Guilherme Ferreira Araújo

UN tells Chile and Peru to legalize abortion

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By Guilherme Ferreira Araújo

On July 7 and 8, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) discussed Chile’s abortion laws and issued a report asking for liberalization of those laws.

According to the report, Chile “should establish exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion, contemplating therapeutic abortion and in those cases in which the pregnancy is a consequence of a rape or incest.”

Chile is one of the few countries that prohibits abortion in all cases.  So far, the country has managed to stand against internal and external pressure to legalize abortion.

But during her campaign, President Michele Bachelet promised to make the legalization of abortion a priority.  Indeed, last May she stated that her intention was to reopen the debate so that the government could approve therapeutic abortion before the end of this year.  The U.N. report also said that Chile “should make sure that reproductive health services are accessible to all women and adolescents."

One of the reasons the UN is using to pressure Chile’s government to change their abortion laws is the high number of clandestine abortions allegedly taking place in Chile. The UNHRC points to “official data” showing 150,000 annual clandestine abortions. However, not only is it impossible to corroborate that figure, but other sources show that this number could be exaggerated by a factor of 10.  According to an article published in the Chilean news publication, Chile B, the annual number of clandestine abortions in Chile may vary between 8,270 and 20,675.

Inflating the number of illegal abortions and maternal mortality is a common tactic of the pro-abortion movement’s effort to legalize the deadly practice. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), famously admitted the tactic after becoming pro-life.

“We claimed that between five and ten thousand women a year died of botched abortions,” he said. "The actual figure was closer to 200 to 300 and we also claimed that there were a million illegal abortions a year in the United States and the actual figure was close to 200,000. So, we were guilty of massive deception."

Chile has also been used as a prime example that legalized abortion does not reduce maternal mortality.

A study published in 2012 by Plos One Institute found that since 1989 when Chile banned abortion, there has been an annual decrease in maternal death. That study, and others compiled and published by the Chilean MELISA Institute strongly challenge the myth that abortion is safe or even necessary to increase maternal health.

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Notwithstanding the empirical data, the United Nations is also hard at work to pressure Chile’s neighbor to the North, Peru, to liberalize its own abortion laws.  In the case of Peru it is the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that has issued the report, not the UNHRC.  CEDAW representatives examined Peru’s case on July 1 and suggested that Peru should legalize abortion in case of rape and severe abnormalities of the unborn child.

The organism suggested that the government eliminate all laws that punish women who abort and asked that Peru “urgently” adopt a law to fight violence against women, a notion often used as a euphemism for legalizing abortion.  

The CEDAW commission presented the conclusions of the report on July 22 and put special emphasis on the abortion issue. This happens despite the strong opposition to abortion in Peru. A recent survey showed that 79 percent of Peruvians support the Catholic Church’s position on abortion.

The CEDAW pressure on Peru is not new. In 2011, after the UN sanctioned Peru for denying an abortion to a teenager, Carlos Polo, Director of the Population Research Institute’s Latin American office, stated that the UN organism doesn’t have the right to force Peru to approve abortion.


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People ask me all the time, “How do you live with your past?” My answer is silly, but it is a true story. Youtube screenshot
Abby Johnson Abby Johnson Follow Abby

I helped so many women abort their babies. Now how do I live with that?

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By Abby Johnson
Abby Johnson business card Planned Parenthood

I have many memories of my time with Planned Parenthood. I spent eight years of my life there. Some memories are good, some are not. But they are contained in my mind. It’s easy to forget them. I have forgotten so much about my time there in just four and a half short years. 

I found my old business card the other day. That is a tangible memory for me. It made me think of the day that I heard I had been promoted to direct the clinic. I was so happy…hugging and jumping up and down with my supervisor. She was so proud of me.

I thought about the day I moved everything into my new, big office. I put pro-choice stickers all over my file cabinet. I called my parents to share the news. They were, of course, proud of me, but hated my work. I can’t imagine how conflicted they were in their minds and hearts. Human resources sent me my new paperwork. There was my new title, my new and amazing salary. 

A few days later, my new business cards came. I remember putting them in my new business card holder on my desk. I filled up the business card holder that I kept in my purse. I had already become used to hearing myself say my new title.

I was proud of myself. I was proud of the hard work I had put in to earn that new title. I worked so many hours, sacrificed so much time from my family. But I knew it would be worth it. And now I had the job title to prove it.

I remember proudly passing out my new business cards to anyone that would take one. Being pro-choice was not just a movement to me; it was a lifestyle. I wholeheartedly embraced that lifestyle and loved being a part of it. 

These tangible reminders that I occasionally find are sometimes hard to work through. I remember receiving the records from my medication abortion. That tangible reminder of my past was difficult to manage. I look at my “Employee of the Year” award that I received from Planned Parenthood and think back to the night I received it. I ended up putting that old award on my desk as a reminder of where I came from and how much my life has changed. Seeing that plaque no longer brings back those tangible memories. 

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One of the reasons I was so taken aback when finding my old business card was not just because it was a reminder of how proud I had been to run an abortion clinic…something I find deplorable now. It was because of the things I took part in while I had that big title.

The memories of handing women small monetary checks in order to pay for their silence after we had left them with a serious infection after their abortion. The memories of watching women bleed out on our abortion table and being instructed not to call the ambulance because we didn’t want to let the pro-lifers know that we had a medical emergency. The memories I have of “joking” about the babies that died in our facility by abortion. The memories I have of training our abortion facility employees on the “normalcy” of abortion and how to convince women that abortion is the best choice for them.

Part of being a former abortion clinic worker is learning how to deal with your past sin. It may be the lady who came to your clinic for an abortion that you bump into at the store. It could be standing in front of your former abortion facility and remembering all of the damage your words and actions did to so many women. It could be finding that old business card that reminds you of the pride you felt when you became the director of an abortion facility. 

People ask me all the time, “How do you live with your past?” My answer is silly, but it is a true story. 

One day I was watching the kid’s movie “Kung Fu Panda” with my daughter. In the film there is a wise, old tortoise named Oogway. He is talking to one of his students who is frustrated with his current situation. Oogway asks his student, “Do you know why today is called the present? Because it is a gift.”

That little line by an animated tortoise hit me like a ton of bricks. Today is a gift. There is absolutely nothing we can do with our past. And there is very little we can do to control our future. We live NOW. We serve NOW. We choose to move on from our past NOW. 

I don’t know what your past sins are. And I don’t know how frequently you are reminded of them. But as someone who has to face their past sins on pretty much a daily basis, I can tell you that you can be free from their burden. Being reminded of your past doesn’t mean that you have to live with constant grief. It simply means that you have been given the opportunity to transform your past into something positive…maybe you can help others make different choices than you did, maybe you can help others heal from the same struggles that you lived through. I don’t know what you are being called to do, but as the saying goes, “God can turn our mess into a message.” 

Carrying around past burdens doesn’t help us in any way. Know that you can be forgiven. Accept that forgiveness. Use your life to help others. The present is indeed a gift.

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