This week, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by Cecile Richards attacking an Arkansas law requiring physicians who dispense abortion-inducing drugs to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The United States Supreme Court declined to block the law in May, allowing it to be enforced as Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge works its way through the lower courts.
Pro-abortion advocates object that the law may force the closure of Planned Parenthood’s Little Rock and Fayetteville facilities, which only perform chemical rather than surgical abortions, because obstetricians won’t agree to accommodate them. Richards echoed that argument, complaining that abortion seekers will have to “travel out of state or to Little Rock, where the state’s only surgical abortion provider is located.”
“There is no medical or health reason for this ban on medication abortion,” Richards claimed. “Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, non-invasive medication abortion is safe by all measures — safer than Tylenol and Viagra, even.”
In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists 2,207 adverse health events in women who used mifepristone, also known as RU-486, between 2000 and 2011. These include 14 deaths, 612 hospitalizations, 339 hemorrhages requiring transfusion, and 256 infections. Nevertheless, chemical abortions have become almost as common as surgical abortions in recent years.
While it is technically true that Tylenol has been linked to a far greater number of dangers, including 450 deaths annually, the comparison is misleading. The FDA first approved RU-486 in 2000, and must be dispensed in abortion providers’ offices; by contrast, Tylenol has been available since 1955 and can be purchased at any supermarket or retail store.
The length of time Tylenol has been available, combined with the fact acquiring and using it is almost completely unregulated, allows for far more opportunities to overdose on the drug or take it in conjunction with other drugs that interact with it dangerously. These are precisely the sort of errors the Arkansas requirements are meant to account for.
“The common sense safeguard of a physician to handle dangerous potentially life-threatening complications of medication abortion in a hospital should be the top priority of Planned Parenthood who claims to be the champion of reproductive healthcare for women,” Arkansas Right to Life said on June 1. The law merely “ensure[s] that women who have complications from the procedure get help from a physician in a hospital if necessary, something everyone should agree with.”
Yet rather than maintaining the abortion pill's alleged “safety,” some pro-abortion activists, such as columnist Jessica Valenti, go so far as to argue for “mak[ing] the abortion pill available over the counter.”
In addition to the risks to women, abortion pills are lethal to the babies growing within them, intentionally so. “Rarely a person dies from reaction to painkillers but [a] million babies a year die from abortion and so so many of the mothers,” former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee noted.
Richards went on to argue that restricting abortion “only makes it unsafe,” claiming that “healthy women routinely died in emergency rooms across the country because of botched abortions” in the years before Roe v. Wade.
In fact, former Planned Parenthood and Centers for Disease Control statistician Dr. Christopher Tietze and NARAL co-founder turned pro-life activist Dr. Bernard Nathanson both admitted that pro-abortion activists dramatically exaggerated the number of women dying from pre-Roe abortions for political purposes.
Former Planned Parenthood director Mary Calderon estimated in 1960 that 90% of illegal, pre-Roe abortions were performed by licensed physicians, not in proverbial “back alleys,” while a 2005 analysis by FactCheck.org found that the “best available evidence” showed that maternal abortion deaths began sharply declining before states began legalizing abortion, thanks largely to new drugs.
“The good news is that the American people know” abortion is “essential healthcare,” Richards concluded. “Support for Roe vs. Wade is the highest it’s ever been, at 70%.”
While some polls have shown support for Roe that high, others place support for Roe at or near 54%. Many pro-lifers attribute Roe’s support to widespread misinformation about the case, and note that multiple polling outlets consistently show that a majority of Americans want to ban most abortions.