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May 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A study that purports to show that women can “safely” abort their pre-born children using abortion pills is being debunked by critics as unscientific, problematic, and lacking any real credibility. 

The authors of the study based their findings on data provided by the Netherlands-based pro-abortion organization Women on Web. The study tracked the outcomes of some 1,000 women in Ireland and Northern Ireland who used the site to obtain abortion pills, also known as RU-486. 

The non-peer reviewed study titled “Self reported outcomes and adverse events after medical abortion through online telemedicine” was published online May 16 in the British Medical Journal. 

Women on Web calls itself a “digital community of women who have had abortions, medical doctors, researchers, and individuals and organizations that support abortion rights.” The organization provides pills, even illegally, to women seeking an early abortion in more than 140 countries where access to abortion is restricted.

Critics say the study lacks rigorous scientific standards for data collection. Much like the abortion services Women on Web seeks to provide, data was obtained via remote digital contact, relying on self-reporting of individuals, not observations and data collection by trained medical professionals. 

“The main problem with this study is that of the 1600 women who self-induced medical abortions without medical supervision, —  600 (over 30 percent) did not respond to a follow-up survey,” said Michael J. New, Visiting Associate Professor of Economics at Ave Maria University and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

“There is a good chance that women who did not follow up were more likely to experience medical complications than those women who were happy to participate,” he added. 

Professor New called the study “not particularly rigorous.”

“It looks at the health outcomes from a group of 1,000 women who performed medical abortions at home. It does not compare these women to another group of women who had medical abortions under medical supervision,” he said. 

In the study, the authors claim that only about 10% of respondents reported symptoms of potentially serious complications, such as very heavy bleeding, and that this is comparable to the rates for women who seek medical abortions at clinics. Seven women reported needing a blood transfusion and 26 ended up requiring antibiotics, underlining the potential for significant tragedy.

It remains unclear how the authors claim that “no one in the study died,” given the impossibility of a woman performing a medical procedure done in secret being able to ‘self-report’ her own death.

But the study’s questionable methodology has not stopped mainstream media from repeating the study’s conclusion that the data provides the “best evidence to date that self-sourced medical abortion through online telemedicine is highly effective, with low rates of complications.”

Pro-life advocates are warning that the pro-abortion group that supplied the data for the study is putting the lives of women at risk. 

Ireland’s Precious Life director Bernadette Smyth told the BBC there is “no such thing as a safe abortion,” and that the group promoting this study is “putting the lives and health of pregnant women in Ireland at risk by promoting self-use of abortion pills.” 

She criticized the study as having “no credibility.” 

Another pro-life group, Life Northern Ireland, said it was concerned that the study was based on “self-reported outcomes of self-sourced and self-managed medical abortions.”

“We are alarmed . . . Women on the Web [is] flouting the law in Northern Ireland yet again,” Marion Woods of, Northern Ireland’s leading pregnancy care charity, tweeted

Woods explained to the BBC, “Nobody should be taking medical pills of this kind without first contacting their registered GP or health provider.” 

American pro-life organizations were also quick to point out the study's shortcomings.

“There is a surprising lack of basic medical information, and all of the information is self-reported,” said Dr. Donna Harrison, associate scholar and executive director of American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  

“There is not even any confirmation that the women who took the drugs were actually pregnant – no confirmatory urine or blood test by a medical professional, no ultrasound, no confirmation of any basic data. And, there is no report of how many women died…no confirmation of any of the self-reported complications.  There is not even any way to tell if women died. Seriously? This study should have been thrown out in peer review,” she said. 

Chuck Donovan, president of Charlotte Lozier Institute, said the study “reeks of bias and flagrant disregard for protective laws.”

“Its publication in a respected medical journal is shameful and irresponsible. Here in the United States, we owe it to vulnerable women as well as their unborn children to conduct neutral, national reporting on abortion pill complications and restore strict FDA regulation of these dangerous drugs,” he said. 

Arina Grossu, Director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, called the study “problematic.”  

“Women on Web has no regard for women’s health and safety . . . No doctor actually examines the woman to see how far along she actually is or what her conditions are. If the woman is farther along than she thinks, she runs a higher risk of complications and hospitalization,” she said. 

Grossu said that even the study found that the older the baby was, the “higher the risk of an incomplete abortion needing surgical intervention [was], doubling for the women who were 7-9 weeks along compared to those who were less than 7 weeks along.”

But Dr. Abigail Aiken, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin who led the study thinks the risks are acceptable. He told The Associated Press, “We now have evidence that self-sourced medical abortion that's entirely outside the formal health care system can be safe and effective.” 

But Grossu said an FDA Adverse Events Report which looked at 1.5 million women from Sept. 2000 to April 2011 who used mifepristone gives a better indicator of the complications that arise from abortion pills. 

“The Adverse Events Report lists 2,207 reported cases of adverse events including 14 deaths, 612 hospitalizations, 58 ectopic pregnancies, 339 cases of blood loss requiring transfusions, and 256 cases of infections, of which 48 cases were considered severe,” she said. 

“There is no such thing as a safe abortion,” she added.