In a New York Times op-ed, Jessica Valenti tries hard to paint abortion as “normal,” “easy,” and “convenient” now that the abortion pill is widely accessible by mail. The only argument she believes pro-lifers have against abortion is that it is a brutal, ugly procedure — and Valenti believes removing the FDA’s REMS safety restrictions can only show how wrong pro-lifers are as time goes on. But Valenti, like most abortion advocates, misses pro-lifers’ real problem with abortion.
Reporting abortion complications
Valenti celebrates the FDA’s recent policy change permitting the abortion pill by mail during the pandemic as “a huge blow to the anti abortion movement.” She claims that arguments against abandoning the FDA’s REMS procedures, which pro-lifers contend protected women, “will soon arm pro-choice organizations with more studies reiterating the safety of medication abortion and show how shipping pills poses no risk to patients.” Valenti further claims that allowing abortion pills by mail “will also make it that much more difficult for opponents to make specious arguments about unsafe practices.”
But will it?
Valenti and most abortion advocates overlook the fact that most complications arising from the abortion pill aren’t handled by abortion providers, but by hospital emergency departments, which raises serious concerns for reporting actual numbers of complications. According to a 2021 study, “the surgical management of over half the complications was performed by someone other than the abortion provider, yet treating physicians are not required to report complications.” Because of this, the study posits that abortion complications are very likely underreported because abortion providers rely on patients to report any adverse events at follow-up visits, but follow-up visit rates are notoriously poor.
A recent report from Right to Life UK noted that Kevin Duffy, once the Global Director of Clinics Development at MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes International), one of the largest abortion providers in the world, has presented evidence from the NHS showing that complication rates from the abortion pill are actually five times greater than what is being reported by the Department for Health and Social Care for England and Wales. According to Right to Life UK, “Further analysis of the data shows that ‘every month, 495 women attended hospital with complications arising from retained products of conception (RPOC) after a medical abortion. Every month, 250 women after using the abortion pills, required hospital treatment to surgically remove retained products of conception (ERPC)’.”
A survey of UK physicians showed that the vast majority of physicians had concerns about women obtaining the abortion pill by mail, with 86% concerned about coercion, 86% concerned it would be taken past the 10-week gestational limit, and 92% concerned about fraud being used to obtain abortion pills by mail. So while Valenti may feel the abortion pill by mail is something to celebrate, physicians don’t seem to share her enthusiasm.
But another direction Valenti’s argument takes, addressing the “myth” that she says pro-lifers can no longer use, is that the abortion pill is so safe and so easy to obtain and normalized that it should make pro-lifers’ claim that “ending a pregnancy is terrifying and gruesome” seem false on its face. The more access to the pill — which she compares to ibuprofen — the more hypocritical pro-lifers will seem as women have abortions and get on with their daily lives without the sky falling. Pro-lifers’ argument that “abortion is brutal and dangerous” will fail to convince, she claims.
For a moment, let’s imagine that Valenti’s premise is true, that early access to abortion makes it safer, especially compared to late-term abortion. This may be true from one perspective — that is, for a mother it has fewer risks. However, that does not change the fact that the very nature of abortion — whether at five weeks or 25 weeks — is taking the life of a unique preborn baby, a genetically distinct human being, for whom the procedure is fatal.
Even if abortion had no side effects, made women live 20 years longer and put $10,000 in their bank accounts, nothing changes the fact that abortion is always intentionally ending the life of a human being. And intentionally killing humans is wrong, even if the deed isn’t done in “brutal” fashion.
Pro-lifers should never fear an argument that shows that abortion is safer than they thought. The safety or lack thereof of abortion at one stage or another has no bearing on the evil of the act. And it’s true that while the abortion pill is not without maternal risks, it is much safer than, say, a far riskier third trimester abortion. But whether in the first or the third trimester, a human being is deliberately killed. A “medical procedure” that intentionally kills one patient for the convenience or desires of another is not a medical necessity.
The preborn child is a reality
As Live Action founder and president Lila Rose said in response to the FDA’s lifting of restrictions, “The pro-life movement must respond by shining a light on the reality of what the abortion pill does to a preborn child … and work to ensure that the women we know never take the abortion pill or commit any form of abortion against their child.”
Valenti’s eagerness to steamroll pro-life arguments also ignores the reality of post-abortive trauma and the pain that even pro-abortion women have described on terminating their pregnancy for reasons they deem necessary. Valenti airily dismisses the claim that women could ever suffer “mental harm” from abortion. But countless women do regret their abortions, despite Valenti’s attempt to erase them to fit her pro-abortion narrative.
Valenti claims that the abortion pill is an “advancement” that will show that pro-lifers’ goals “have almost nothing to do with health, safety or even babies but everything to do with controlling women.” This makes sense to Valenti, who does not see a preborn baby as a victim of abortion, and who does not acknowledge the women who have been harmed in one way or another by their abortions.
Contrary to what Valenti claims, making the termination of a preborn baby easy and convenient is as regressive as it gets.
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