Over the past few weeks, pro-abortion media outlets have been applauding the rise of at-home abortion websites. Sites like Bustle, Cosmopolitan, Broadly, The New York Times, and The Washington Post have all covered the issue, typically while bemoaning “restrictive” abortion laws and touting the supposed safety of at-home abortions. But is it really safe for women to give themselves abortions at home? At least one doctor says no.
Dr. Sandy Christiansen is a national medical consultant for Care Net, a pro-life non-profit organization that supports a network of pregnancy care centers, and operates the country’s only real-time call center offering pregnancy counseling. In an interview with The Stream, Christiansen directly addresses a study in The British Medical Journal.
According to Dr. Abigail Aiken, who led the study, the researchers were able to show that taking abortion pills at home was just as safe as taking them in a clinic under supervision of a doctor. “We now have evidence that self-sourced medical abortion that’s entirely outside the formal health care system can be safe and effective,” Aiken said. “Women are very capable of managing their own abortions and they’re able to determine themselves when they need to seek medical attention.”
The study tracked 1,000 women in Ireland and Northern Ireland, who filled out a form online, which a doctor would review, and then prescribe the abortion pill cocktail of mifepristone and misoprostol. The women would get the pills in the mail, which they would take at home without any physician supervision.
Here’s how the pills work: the mifepristone blocks progesterone, causing the lining of the mother’s uterus to break down and starve the baby of blood and nourishment. This will eventually cause the baby to die. The misoprostol, taken 24 to 48 hours later, causes contractions, forcing the mother to dispel her baby’s body.
While Aiken’s study claims that it’s perfectly safe for women to attempt abortions at home, Christiansen warns that it can actually be quite dangerous, and it has nothing to do with how capable women may be. “This isn’t is a question of capacity. Women are remarkable and highly capable people,” Christiansen said. “The real question at hand: is this practice safe and is it wise? Wisdom involves applying knowledge in a prudent and thoughtful manner.”
Christiansen pointed out that there are numerous reasons that women should see a doctor before taking abortion pills. Currently, the FDA has only approved this treatment up through 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Problem #1: Accurately dating the pregnancy
“Relying solely upon a telephone/video call interview to date a woman’s pregnancy before prescribing an abortion is malpractice, in my opinion,” Christiansen said. “The BMJ article noted an increased failure rate with increasing gestational age. This has been previously demonstrated in earlier studies. The article admitted the true gestational age of the pregnancy may be incorrect in some cases. So a woman who is supposedly nine weeks pregnant could actually be further along. This exposes her to increased risks.”
Problem #2: Possible undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy
Another problem is with possible ectopic pregnancies, which is why in many abortion clinics, pre-abortion ultrasounds are the standard of care. If a woman has an ectopic pregnancy and takes the abortion pills, she can suffer infection and internal bleeding, which can — and has — lead to maternal death.
Problem #3: Lack of safeguards when buying abortion pills online
As for websites like the one featured in the study, Christiansen points out that the FDA specifically warns against buying pills like these over the internet. “[W]ebsites like these pose a significant danger to women and do not have their best interests at heart,” she said. “The FDA posts clear warnings about buying this particular drug over the internet. It notes that doing so bypasses important safeguards. Mifeprex is only distributed to authorized prescribers through a restricted program. The FDA implemented this in response to a number of deaths that occurred among women who had taken the abortion pill regimen. Several of them died of overwhelming sepsis caused by the bacteria Clostridium sordellii.”
Problem #4: Potential for significant complications
While these websites claim that taking the pills is the same as having a miscarriage, that isn’t based in fact. “Taking the abortion pill is not just like a miscarriage,” Christiansen explained. “It carries the potential for significant risks and complications. There is a significant risk of hemorrhage. One percent of women will need a surgical scraping, such as a D&C, to control bleeding after using Mifeprex. One percent may not sound like a big number, unless you’re one of the unlucky 3,150.”
Yet how many women will be properly informed of these risks if they’re getting abortion pills over the websites? How will the doctor prescribing the pills online know if the woman is really less than 10 weeks pregnant, or if she has an ectopic pregnancy? And more importantly, why is it that abortion advocates do not concern themselves with these very real issues?
It certainly appears that, for the abortion lobby, making abortion as widespread and commonplace as possible is more important than the safety of women they claim to be advocating for.
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