When a prominent New York Times columnist endorses a particular type of chemical abortion it is worth a review of the facts. (See Kristof op-ed.) In the papers August 1st edition, Nicholas Kristof wrote a paean to the potential of misoprostol-only abortions. Referring to misoprostol as Another Pill that Could Cause a Revolution, he essentially argues that abortion pills will be impossible to control and will become ubiquitous eventually. Thus, there is little that can be done to control them or to enact laws that restrict abortion laws.

Of course, Kristof ignores the destruction of human life that abortion brings about in his piece, but it should never be forgotten.

Even on his own terms, however, it is stunning what liberals will advocate especially for women in lesser developed nations. The reason the worldwide abortion movement favors chemical abortions in poor nations is that they dont have the facilities and the doctors to perform abortions. So, do-it-yourself abortions are the way to go. This should strike anyone with a modicum of common sense as highly problematic.

Some Background on Abortion Methods

Currently, there is one FDA-approved chemical abortion method in the United States. It involves the use of RU-486 followed by a second drug, misoprostol. (I advise those with a deeper interest in this topic to read Section II of Politicized Science, my FRC pamphlet on the FDAs approval of the RU-486/misoprostol regimen.) Mifepristone blocks the progesterone receptors in the lining of the uterus. Progesterone prepares the uterus for the implantation of the embryo and plays an essential role in maintaining a pregnancy thereafter. As I wrote:

RU-486s blockade of progesterone receptors leads to the deterioration of the uterine lining in which the embryo is implanted. As this deterioration worsens, the uterus is no longer able to sustain the pregnancy and the embryo is destroyed.

However, RU-486 by itself was not able to stop embryonic development and cause the uterus to empty its contents. That was a big problem. Mifepristone-only abortions worked less than 80% of the time a failure. Hence the need for misoprostol an anti-ulcer medication that, when given to a pregnant woman, almost immediately produces intense uterine contractions. In combination, the two drugs were barely adequate for the abortionists purposes. The American clinical trials demonstrated that this regimen, which the FDA would later approve, was only successful in 92% of pregnancies within 49 days LMP, 83% at 56 days LMP, and 77% at 63 days LMP. (LMP = days after the onset of last menstrual period before fertilization.)

Kristof Advocates a Dangerous Abortion Regimen

It is interesting that Kristof mentions that this regimen is used out to nine weeks in the U.S. because it fails over a fifth of the time. That is, it leaves either an incomplete abortion or an ongoing pregnancy. Typically, women need a surgical procedure to stop bleeding or infection when this happens. In the article, however, Kristof announces that the misoprostol-only abortion is the revolutionary approach to be used in other parts of the world.

He isnt as curious as he ought to be about why the progesterone-blocking chemical is the lynchpin of Western abortions, but is not needed for poor women in poor countries. He does note that [r]esearchers are finding that if women take misoprostol alone, effectiveness drops to 80 to 85 percent. As noted above, the FDA-monitored trials produced much lower rates of effective use, but lets give Kristof his estimates. He is admitting that these women will have a failed abortion up to 20% of the time that is, ongoing pregnancy or incomplete abortion. They will be subject to hemorrhage and infection.

Section III of the FRC pamphlet on mifepristone-misoprostol abortions describes data gathered by Doctors Harris and Gary that yielded these insights about chemical abortion:

The FDA informed Chairman Mark Souder that 116 cases of severe bleeding requiring transfusions had been reported to the FDA by March 31, 2006. Gary and Harrison reported that 237 of their 607 [side-effect reports submitted to FDA and obtained via the Freedom of Information Act] reported hemorrhage and that 42 cases were life-threatening. All of the patients who experienced life-threatening bleeding would have died had they not received timely access to medical and surgical services.

This is not a game, and women who do not have access to modern emergency rooms will become very ill and may die if they have chemical abortions. Chemical abortions require more oversight to be performed safely -- not less.

Its too bad Mr. Kristof didnt know about the story of one pro-choice womans experience with chemical abortion published in Marie Claire. Her story wasnt about revolutionary pills it was about being made sick for many months by the mifepristone-misoprostol regimen (I Was Betrayed by a Pill). To be blunt about it, Kristofs article reads like an amalgamation of talking points from Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Marie Stopes.

There is another side to the story that accurately reflects the dangers involved in these procedures. It is the information presented by groups like the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists who have had much to say about chemical abortions (see this link). Perhaps, someone can help pass some good information to Mr. Kristof.