Former FDA Commissioner wants to relax abortion pill restrictions. This is a very bad idea.

abortion pills

In an opinion piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Jane Henney and her co-author argue that the drug mifepristone (the abortion pill) should be removed from the database (called REMS) that limits abortion pill prescribers to doctors who are able to give appropriate follow-up care to their patients in the event of complications.

In an interview with NPR about her piece, Henney claimed, “The current restrictions impose a lot of burden on women who have to go to a clinic and [on] the certified physician. If some of those restrictions were lifted, you could possibly go to your own physician who might write a prescription that you could get filled in your pharmacy and take this medication at home right now.” Henney also claims that the FDA’s restrictions are outdated, because the abortion pill has now been shown to be safe: “I believe it’s important for them to do another review in light of the safety information we know about this drug.” But “safe” is a relative term. In the U.S. alone, 24 women have died from taking the pill, and well over 4,000 have had serious complications, including hemorrhaging and sepsis.


Conflicts of interest taint abortion pill studies

Live Action News has reported in an investigative series that many recent abortion pill studies have been funded by those who have a vested financial interest in ensuring a wider use of the abortion pill without current FDA restrictions. The NPR story links to a commentary in the Journal Contraception which has ties to the abortion industry. Contraception is the official journal of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) and the Society of Family Planning (SFP). As a Live Action News investigation has shown, ARHP and SFP have deep ties to the abortion industry. SFP’s mission supports abortion research, funds the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute which promotes self-managed abortion, and is part of the TelAbortion study team. ARHP was founded as a clinical education arm of Planned Parenthood under the American Association of Planned Parenthood Physicians (AAPPP). Even the Journal Contraception and its leadership have a laundry list of potential conflicts of interest, as documented by Live Action News.

Removing FDA safeguards puts women at greater risk 

Not only is the argument for loosening abortion pill restrictions based on research that assumes its own premise (that abortion is a universal good that should be widely available), but it would also put women at more risk from a pill with potentially deadly complications even under the current FDA restrictions. Making mifepristone widely available without appropriate prior and follow-up care, part of the purpose of REMS, makes women vulnerable to complications such as an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy, which can result in death if improperly treated.

In her opinion piece, Henney states, “A recent study of mifepristone in Ireland and Northern Ireland showed that medication abortions can be done at home as safely as treatments can be administered in a clinic, confirming that there is no advantage to special dispensing restrictions.” However, the study she cites has several important methodological problems, acknowledged by the researchers themselves, including total reliance on self-reported data, incomplete follow-up, and inability to determine if adverse events were treated appropriately.

And while abortion pill complications under 6 weeks’ gestation may be less frequent, the likelihood for complications increases after 8 weeks’ gestation. As even pro-abortion opponents of heartbeat bills constantly claim, many women may not know they are pregnant by 6 weeks’ gestation, or even 8 weeks for women who may be on some form of birth control. But the fact is that most women cannot determine their exact stage of pregnancy with precision, since rudimentary dating relies on an estimate based off of last menstrual period (LMP), without a dating ultrasound provided by an OB-GYN. It is irresponsible for medical providers to place the burden on patients, as some would advocate, to provide accurate pregnancy dating and gestational status.

Women may be more vulnerable to abuse 

Additionally, vulnerable women could suffer if mifepristone is made more widely available without requiring recourse to medical professionals, since abusers would have an easier way to hide their crimes. It could also make it more difficult to identify and help victims of rape and human trafficking who, if abortion zealots get their way, would have minimal or even no contact with medical professionals, who are mandatory reporters.

With all these dangers to women, why are those like Henney and the problematic studies she cites pushing to lift the FDA’s current restrictions on mifepristone? Profit. As Live Action News has reported, manufacturers like DANCO and its investors are waiting to cash in from wider availability of the drug. Carafem states the abortion pill can cost patients between $300 and $800. According to Planned Parenthood, the abortion pill can cost patients up to $1,000.

Yet even more than all the biased studies, false arguments, purported safety or effectiveness, we must never lose sight of the most important fact about the abortion pill, and the reason why it can never be truly considered “safe”: it is used to take a human life.

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