Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Abortifacients Seen as Unstoppable

As public opinion turns increasingly against abortion, pro-abortion advocates look to abortion pills as a more palatable alternative to surgical abortion.

". . . it would be tough to carry out a ban on medical abortion."

-- From "Another Pill That Could Cause a Revolution" by Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times 7/31/10

This pharmaceutical approach is called “medical abortion.” In the United States and Europe it typically consists of two sets of “M” pills. The first is mifepristone, formerly known as RU-486, and then a day or two later the misoprostol.

Using the drugs in combination produces a miscarriage more than 95 percent of the time in early pregnancy. But mifepristone is difficult to obtain in much of the world, because it is used only to induce abortions. In contrast, misoprostol is very widely available and can’t easily be banned because it is also used for ulcers and can save lives of women with postpartum hemorrhages. Whatever one thinks of misoprostol for abortions, it also is a potential lifesaver for women who hemorrhage after childbirth.

Medical abortion causes a miscarriage that is indistinguishable from a natural one. That’s important for women in countries where they risk arrest if they seek help in a hospital after a botched abortion. The risks to a woman seem no greater than with a natural miscarriage, and there’s no known harm to a woman who turns out not to have been pregnant after all. One serious downside is that misoprostol is suspected of causing birth defects, perhaps 1 percent of the time, but only if it fails and the pregnancy continues to term.

What do these pills mean for the political battles over abortion? To firm opponents of abortion, the means of ending a pregnancy doesn’t matter. But my hunch is that, for those in the middle, taking pills at home may seem a more natural process than a surgical abortion, and the result may be a tad more acceptance.

To read the entire opinion column, CLICK HERE.