Ben Johnson


Jamaican officials worried about dangerous black market chemical abortions

Ben Johnson

KINGSTON, JAMAICA, June 14, 2012, ( – Jamaican peddlers are making a fortune in a burgeoning black market for abortion-inducing pills that threaten the women who take them with heavy bleeding, permanent infertility, and death. 

Authorities in the English-speaking island say they have observed a bustling trade in Cytotec, a pill prescribed for gastric ulcers that has the side-effect of inducing labor. The pills, which are both swallowed as well as inserted into the vagina, cause contractions that induce an abortion.

The recommended dose of Cytotec, the generic name for Misoprostol, is one pill a day. Woman choosing to abort take four or five in an hour

A set of four pills command anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 on the street – but the toll on women’s health is far higher. 

“It has been a cause of maternal deaths in some other countries as it can cause rupture of the uterus,” said Horace Fletcher, a professor in the Gynecological and Obstetrics Department at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).

“Cytotec causes abortion (sometimes incomplete which could lead to dangerous bleeding and require hospitalization and surgery),” the drug company Pfizer warns. “Cytotec has been reported to cause the uterus to rupture (tear) when given after the eighth week of pregnancy. Rupture (tearing) of the uterus can result in severe bleeding, hysterectomy, and/or maternal or fetal death.” 

Local media report women on the island have taken the pill into the sixth month of pregnancy.

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The drug manufacturer, Searle, instructs, “Serious adverse events reported following off-label use of Cytotec in pregnant women include maternal or fetal death; uterine hyperstimulation, rupture or perforation requiring uterine surgical repair, hysterectomy or salpingo-oophorectomy; amniotic fluid embolism; severe vaginal bleeding, retained placenta, shock, fetal bradycardia, and pelvic pain.” 

However, the company says it is “unable to provide complete risk information.”

The ill effects of using the drug for abortion – often in concert with RU-486 – are well known. The drug manufacturer wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in 1993 that the company “strongly opposes any efforts to approve its use with RU486 in abortion, either in the U.S. or elsewhere.” 

Dr. Michael Cullen, U.S. Director of Searle, wrote a letter reminding prescribing physicians, “Cytotec administration by any route is contraindicated in women who are pregnant because it can cause abortion.” (Emphasis in original.)

Despite its known side-effects, the population control movement has encouraged the off-label use of Cytotec around the world.

“No one yet knows the best ways to use it but…where abortion is illegal and unsafe, it might be the single safest method,” said Dr. Beverly Winikoff, director of reproductive health for the New York-based Population Council.

Judicial Watch uncovered documents that the FDA helped protect Searle from legal liability for such usage.
As a result, the injuries have piled up with the number of illicit abortions. Some 200,000 incomplete abortions reportedly occurred in Brazil, leading to severe bleeding or worse. 

In the Phillipines, the government has cracked down on the trade.

Yet some promote the increased use of the drug in Jamaica, where abortion is illegal. Dr. R. E. D. Thwaites, a former head of the National Family Planning Board, has suggested Cytotec “be available at the drug store, over the counter, and allow free access, with guidance.”

Pro-life advocates are fighting for the unborn on all fronts. The Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) began its monastic pro-life apostolate on the island after two monks found an aborted baby’s discarded body in the local dump. The order has 200 members.

A 2008 bill, heavily support by international pressure groups and foreign governments, would have penalized Jamaican doctors $250,000 if they refused

to perform an abortion. It failed after lawmakers watched graphic footage of an abortion.