By Dr. Tim Millea
On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Roe v. Wade case. Over the past 49 years, our society has endured the loss of more than 63 million lives to abortion. In
comparison, approximately 162 million babies have been born since 1973. It is sobering to realize the immense loss those numbers represent. More than a quarter of the babies conceived over that period were denied the basic right to exist.
However, a light may be overcoming the darkness. On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case deals with a 2018 Mississippi state law that banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law’s opponents have questioned its constitutionality. A decision is expected this summer and optimism is growing in the pro-life community after the Court’s hearing. However, the fight for life must continue.
It would be shortsighted to believe that a ban on surgical abortions would end the debate. The abortion industry is astute in its business decisions and promotes alternatives to surgical abortions. An increasingly common option is a chemical, or medical, abortion. The result of a chemical abortion is no different from that of a surgical abortion. A human life ends. However, chemical abortions raise concerns behind the curtain of this “non-invasive” approach.
In the United States, chemical abortions use a two-medication process, first approved by the FDA in 2000. First, the pregnant woman takes oral mifepristone, often known as RU-486 or by its brand name, Mifeprex. Mifepristone blocks progesterone, which is essential to the pregnancy, thus ending the baby’s life. One or two days later, the woman takes Misoprostol, which causes uterine cramping and bleeding. The result is the delivery of the deceased baby. This increasingly is occurring in the woman’s home, described as a “self-induced” or “at-home” abortion. The ongoing effort in the pro-abortion movement to allow online ordering of abortion pills, without medical evaluation, demonstrates the emphasis the industry places on chemical abortions.
As with surgical abortions, pro-choice supporters loudly proclaim the safety of chemical abortions. However, the data over the past two decades has cast profound doubt on this reassurance. The medical literature is replete with information about the risks associated with chemical abortions. In 2006, six years after FDA approval, obstetricians from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pittsburgh reviewed studies of abortion risks and found that “the risk of death appears to be 10 times greater with medical abortion than with surgical abortion.” It is important to note that these doctors performed abortions in their own practices in spite of the risks they reported.
Obstetricians with Helsinki University in Finland in 2009 reviewed more than 22,000 medical abortion cases. They found the “overall incidence of adverse effects was fourfold higher in the medical compared with surgical abortions.”
In spite of its approval of chemical abortion drugs, even the FDA has reported worrisome data. An FDA-authored “adverse effects summary” reviewing reports from 2000 through 2018 noted more than 1,000 hospitalizations resulting from chemical abortion. Nearly 600 women required blood transfusions due to severe bleeding, and more than 400 received treatment for infection.
The most recent study of this subject, reported in November 2021 by researchers with the Charlotte Lozier Institute (lozierinstitute.org), is the largest analysis of U.S. databases of pregnancy outcomes ever published. The study reviewed more than 400,000 abortion cases over a 17-year period. More than 121,000 (28%) resulted in an emergency department visit within 30 days of the abortion. According to the authors, chemical abortions “significantly increased the risk of an emergency room visit” compared to surgical abortions, with a “53% greater risk.” Of great concern is the acceleration of these trends. Rather than the expected decrease in ER visits with longer experience, the opposite is dramatically true. From 2002 to 2015, the likelihood of ER visits after a chemical abortion increased 507%.
Regardless of the decision in the Dobbs case or any abortion-related ruling, the landscape is changing and will continue to change. Abortion promoters will not be preoccupied with the method of abortion. Rather, they will remain adamant that an abortion by any means is readily available. Even in the absence of current legislative limits, their strategy is evolving. In 2002, chemical abortions accounted for 4.4% of total abortions. In 2015, that increased to 34.1%. Certainly, the proportion has increased since then and, with increasing promotion touting the “safety and simplicity” of chemical abortion, the proportion will increase. The pro-life community must continue its work and expand it to overcome the misinformation surrounding all types of abortions.
This battle continues, and all of us have been selected as soldiers. As Jesus told his disciples in John’s Gospel, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last…” As Christians, we know that goodness and truth will ultimately triumph. Our task is to do all we can to protect the defenseless among us by demonstrating the falsehoods of those who devalue life. With that, the victory will be accomplished, and God willing, very soon. Our unborn sisters and brothers are depending on us.
(Dr. Tim Millea is president of the St. Thomas Aquinas Medical Guild and a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.)