A Modicum of Perspective, Please

Two women have died after taking RU 486, so of course the anti-choice brigade is jumping all over the news, gleefully screeching about how the drug kills pregnant women.

Two Senate abortion foes, Republicans Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, urged passage of legislation that would suspend sales of RU-486 until the Government Accountability Office reviews how the FDA approved the pill.

"RU-486 is a deadly drug that is killing pregnant women," DeMint said. "This drug should never have been approved, and it must be suspended immediately."
It appears that they may be the result of taking the second dose of pills via vaginal insertion, which produces fewer side effects but is not recommended by the FDA, which instead instructs women to take the second dose orally. Vaginal insertion can, in rare cases, trigger sepsis, which is the suspected cause of death. Planned Parenthood has, effectively immediately, changed its policy to reflect concerns about sepsis.

These deaths are tragic, and I don’t want to minimize that at all. But a little perspective would be nice, too. Out of the approximate 560,000 times medication abortion has been done in the US, seven women have died (meanwhile, 27,000 people had died from heart attacks and strokes while taking the arthritis drug Vioxx before the FDA pulled that drug), and none of those seven deaths have been directly attributed to mifepristone. The rate of sepsis comparable to infection risks with surgical abortions and childbirth, and the US has a maternal death rate of 12 per 100,000, making pregnancy more dangerous than RU-486.

In other words, Senators DeMint and Coburn would be better off screaming instead about how pregnancy kills pregnant women.

Better yet, they could speak to some emergency room workers who remember the number of women who died of sepsis after getting unsafe, unsanitary back-alley abortions before Roe, and see if that’s actually a preferable state of affairs to continuing to provide women access to RU-486.

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