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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The first pro-abortion Republican enters the 2016 presidential race

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By Ben Johnson

EXETER, NH, May 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The large and expanding field of would-be Republican presidential candidates grew by one today, as George Pataki became the first GOP presidential hopeful this election season to openly support abortion-on-demand.

The 69-year-old long-shot candidate also has a history of supporting homosexual legislative causes.

In the weeks leading up to his formal announcement, George Pataki took out TV ads asking Republicans to refrain from talking about abortion and gay “marriage,” branding them “distractions.”

“In 12 years [as governor], I don’t think I talked about that issue twice,” he once said of abortion.

On same-sex “marriage,” he says, “I think, leave it to the states. I don’t think it’s a role in Washington.”

However, Pataki has a long history of enacting the homosexual political agenda as governor of New York from 1994-2006. He signed a “hate crimes” law that added the words “gay” and “lesbian” to New York state law for the first time.

He signed the Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination Act (SONDA), which prohibits business owners from “discriminating” against homosexuals in housing or hiring, with an exemption only for religious institutions.

He also added sexual orientation to state civil rights laws, alongside such immutable characteristics as race and sex, in an apparent quid pro quo for a gay activist group's endorsement in his last run for governor. The New York Times reported that, under pressure from Pataki, then then-Senate Majority Leader “shifted his position on the bill as part of what is tacitly acknowledged, even by Senator [Joseph] Bruno's senior aides, to have been a deal to win an endorsement for Governor Pataki from the state's largest gay rights group, the Empire State Pride Agenda.”

After the LGBT activist group endorsed Pataki in 2002, citing a long list of his service to the homosexual political cause, Pataki personally lobbied senators for the bill's passage, then signed it into law that December.

Coupled with his stance on gun control, environmentalism, and other issues, he stands well to the left of the Republican mainstream.

The three-term governor of New York, who belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, took his own advice by largely avoiding social issues today. The closest he came was his vow, “I'd repeal oppressive laws like ObamaCare and end Common Core.”

He added that he would “fire every current IRS employee abusing government power to discriminate on the basis of politics or religion. That is not America!”

Otherwise, Pataki's announcement speech hewed to stand pat Republican issues like reducing taxes, shrinking the number of federal employees, increasing military spending, and supporting entrepreneurship.

He began by thanking his supporters, in English and Spanish.

Smiling, his head pivoting between twin teleprompters, he said, “Let me tell you some of the things I'd do right away to get oppressive government off the backs of Americans.”

He would institute a lifetime ban on congressmen acting as lobbyists after they leave office. “If you ever served one day in Congress, you will never be a lobbyist,” he said. He favors forcing Congress to live under the laws it passes, so there will be “no special rules for the powerful.”

He cited his history of cutting taxes, reducing welfare rolls, and leaving his state with billions of dollars in surplus. “That's what our policies can do,” he said. “I know we can do the same thing for the United States.”

In recent weeks, he has called for a more interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East. Today, he reminded his audience that he was governor of New York in 9/11. “I will not fear the lesson of September 11,” he said. “To protect us, first we must protect the border,” he said – an unexpected phrase, as Pataki supports amnesty for the at least 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.

“We will stand with our ally, Israel, a democracy on the front lines of terror and barbarism,” he said.

Like former Sen. Rick Santorum, who announced he is running for president yesterday, Pataki agreed that “if necessary, American forces will be used to actually defeat and destroy ISIS on the ground – although he promised not to become “the world's policeman.”

Some of his campaign promises drew skepticism, such as seeking to develop self-driving cars and to cure Alzheimer's disease and cancer within the next decade.

The speech's venue was chosen deliberately by Pataki, who considered entering the presidential race in 2000, 2008, and 2012. The town of Exeter, New Hampshire, claims to be the founding place of the Republican Party. (Ripon, Wisconsin, makes a similar claim.)

More importantly, the first-in-the-nation primary skews more libertarian on social issues than evangelical-dominated Iowa and South Carolina, so Pataki has essentially staked his candidacy on doing well in New Hampshire. Fellow pro-abortion Republican Rudy Giuliani made a similar bet in 2008, banking on a good showing among transplanted New Yorkers in the Florida primary. He left the race after finishing a distant third.

Short of a stunning upset in the Granite State, Pataki has little chance of breaking through the pack this year. A Fox News poll ranks him dead last among 16 announced and potential candidates. Holly Bailey of Yahoo! News said, “George Pataki would never say this, but you do have to wonder if he's sort of, maybe, gaming for vice president.”

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Pataki is not the first “pro-choice” Republican to run for president.  Giuliani (who supported partial birth abortion) and Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (another potential 2016 candidate, who supports abortion during the first trimester) ran in 2008. Twelve years earlier, both California Gov. Pete Wilson and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter supported abortion-on-demand. Arlen Specter later left the party and became a Democrat.

In 1988, General Alexander Haig opposed a human life amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So did Texas Gov. John Connally in 1980.

George H.W. Bush supported abortion and voted for Planned Parenthood funding early in his career but changed his position by the time he ran for president the second time, in 1988.

President Gerald Ford was the last Republican nominee to proclaim himself “pro-choice.” 

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Ireland ‘defied God’ by voting for gay ‘marriage’: Cardinal Burke

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By Pete Baklinski

OXFORD, May 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Cardinal Raymond Burke lamented how formerly Catholic Ireland has gone further than the pagans in the pre-Christian days of old and “defied God” by calling homosexual behavior “marriage” in the referendum last week.

“I mean, this is a defiance of God. It’s just incredible. Pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviours, they never dared to say this was marriage,” he told the Newman Society, Oxford University’s Catholic organization, in an address Wednesday about the intellectual heritage of Pope Benedict XVI. The Tablet, Britain’s liberal Catholic newspaper, reported his remarks.

On Friday, 1.2 million Irish people voted to amend the country’s constitution to say: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” A little over 734,000 people voted against the proposal. 

Burke said that he could not understand “any nation redefining marriage.”

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The cardinal also emphasized the important role that parents play in protecting their children in a culture increasingly hostile to God’s laws. “The culture is thoroughly corrupted, if I may say so, and the children are being exposed to this, especially through the internet,” he said. One practical piece of advice that he offered families was to put computers in public areas to prevent children from “imbib[ing] this poison that’s out there.”

During the same Oxford visit, but during a homily at a Mass the day before, Burke called marriage between a man and woman a “fundamental truth” that has been “ignored, defied, and violated.”

Burke warned during the homily of the dangers of “various ideological currents” and of “human deception and trickery which strives to lead us into error.”

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Why young Christians can’t grasp our arguments against gay ‘marriage’

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By John Stonestreet

May 28, 2015 (BreakPoint.org) -- For five years, Dr. Abigail Rine has been teaching a course on gender theory at George Fox University, an evangelical school in the Quaker tradition.

At the beginning of the semester, she tells her students that “they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.”

Writing at FirstThings.com recently, she related how five years ago it was easy to find readings that challenged and even offended the evangelical college students “considering the secular bent of contemporary gender studies.”

But today, things are different. “Students now,” she says, “arrive in my class thoroughly versed in the language and categories of identity politics; they are reticent to disagree with anything for fear of seeming intolerant—except, of course, what they perceive to be intolerant.”

And what do they find “intolerant”? Well, in her class, an essay entitled “What is Marriage?” by Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan Anderson, which was the beginning of the book “What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense.”

In their article, Girgis, George, and Anderson defend what they call the conjugal view of marriage. “Marriage,” they write, “is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other … that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together.” They defend this view against what they call the “revisionist view” of marriage, which redefines marriage to include, among other things, same-sex couples.

“My students hate it,” Dr. Rine wrote. They “lambast the article.” “They also,” she adds, “seem unable to fully understand the argument.” And again, these are evangelical students at an evangelical school.

The only argument for conjugal marriage they’ve ever encountered has been the wooden proof-texting from the Bible. And besides, wrote Rine, “What the article names as a ‘revisionist’ idea of marriage—marriage as an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people—does not seem ‘new’ to my students at all, because this is the view of marriage they were raised with, albeit with a scriptural, heterosexual gloss.”

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As Rine points out “the redefinition of marriage began decades ago” when “the link between sexuality and procreation was severed in our cultural imagination.”

And if marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction,” then it seems mean-spirited to Rine’s students to argue that marriage by its very nature excludes same-sex couples.

And where do students get the idea that marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction”? Well, everywhere—television, church, school, their homes, in youth groups.

Rine writes, “As I consider my own upbringing and the various ‘sex talks’ I encountered in evangelical church settings over the past twenty years, I realize that the view of marital sex presented there was primarily revisionist.”

In other words, once you say, “I do,” you get “the gift” of sex which is presented as “a ‘gift’ largely due to its [erotic], unitive properties, rather than its intrinsic capacity to create life.” Even in the Church, children have become an optional add-on to married life rather than its primary purpose.

What can we do to win back our children, our churches, and the culture? In our recent book “Same Sex Marriage,” Sean McDowell and I lay out a game plan. We offer strategies for the short-term and the long-term, with the ultimate goal: re-shaping the cultural imagination towards what God intended marriage to be, starting with the church. Come to BreakPoint.org to pick up your copy.

As Chuck Colson once said in a BreakPoint commentary about marriage, “We Christians are very good at saying ‘No.’ But we’ve got to get better at saying ‘Yes’: showing how God’s plan for humanity is a blessing. That His ways, including faithful, life-giving marriage between one man and one woman, lead to human flourishing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Reprinted with permission from Break Point.

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