Sept. 4, 2020
But this is not a faithful representation of what the letter, signed by 20 Republican senators, said. In actuality, the letter stated that “pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness.” This is an important distinction. Senate Republicans are not denying the life-threatening complications that can emerge during pregnancy and labor. They are stressing the point that pregnancy—and by extension, the unborn child in the womb—is not a disease for which the abortion pill is a “cure.”
Certainly, pregnancy has associated health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. maternal mortality rate is 17.4 per 100,000 live births as of 2018. But pregnancy, the natural biological process of bringing new human life into the world, is not a disease, and should not be treated as if it were one.
The two-pill abortion regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol, on the other hand, carries its own set of risks to women’s health that are far from natural. These risks include severe bleeding, infection, retained fetal parts, the need for emergency surgery, and even death. There are over 4,000 documented cases of abortion pills endangering the lives and health of women. Said health risks are the reason why the FDA placed safety restrictions on the procurement of abortion pills. We don’t even know the full extent of the damage that abortion pills have inflicted on women’s health, because reporting of adverse events is voluntary. The FDA admits that it “does not receive reports for every adverse event or medication error that occurs with a product.”
One of the FDA’s safety restrictions required women to make an in-person visit to a certified prescriber in order to receive abortion pills. This restriction, meant to mitigate some of the risks of taking abortion pills, was recently waived for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic by a federal district judge. This decision sought to protect women’s health, but in reality, it merely substituted one health risk (COVID-19) for another (severe abortion complications).
But even with these FDA restrictions fully in place, the abortion pill (also known as chemical or medical abortion) has been shown to pose a greater risk to women’s health than surgical abortion in the first trimester. As Michael J. New of the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Donna Harrison of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists write:
[A] 2015 study of abortion safety in California, based on comprehensive and reliable data from Medicaid billing records rather than surveys, found that medical abortions resulted in four times the complication rate of first-trimester surgical abortions. Given that chemical abortions are already riskier than early surgical abortions, it stands to reason that performing medical abortions without physician supervision only increases those risks.
The Republican senators who signed the letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn are not denying—as some news media headlines and abortion activists would apparently have the American public believe—that pregnancies can have life-threatening medical complications. These senators are making the legitimate claim that abortion pills are “an ‘imminent hazard to the public health’” that should not be considered a viable solution to an unplanned pregnancy or any potential pregnancy complications.