Pro-Life Groups Call for Investigation Into RU 486 Death

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 25, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Groups Call for Investigation Into RU 486 Death

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 25, 2003

San Francisco, CA ( — The death of a teenager in California who used the RU 486 abortion drug has prompted pro-life organizations across the country to issue a call for a thorough investigation and say the dangerous abortion drug ought to be pulled form the market entirely.

Holly Patterson is believed to have died from an infection resulting from an incomplete abortion.

She obtained the first part of the two-drug abortion process at Planned Parenthood. She was told to use the second part, misoprostol, vaginally at home.

However, FDA approval of RU-486 calls for the second pill to be administered orally during a second office visit. The FDA site says some doctors, on the basis of published studies, practice "off-label” medicine in prescribing that misoprostol be inserted vaginally at home. The agency says it has had "no opportunity to evaluate the safety or efficacy of this regimen.”

Danco Laboratories, maker of the abortion drug in the U.S., has also issued guidelines saying those who use the drug are supposed to return to the abortion facility for the second pill.

The abortion drug is also not to be used after 49 days of gestation. Patterson was in her seventh week of pregnancy when she went to the abortion facility, but that diagnosis could have been off.

Holly’s death the apparent disregard for protocol by Planned Parenthood — and perhaps other abortion businesses — has pro-life groups concerned and asking for action.

Concerned Women for America, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Christian Medical Association have challenged the FDA approval of RU-486 and its misuse by abortion facilities.

"The FDA has the power to protect women from this dangerous drug," stated Wendy Wright of CWA. "We grieve with the Patterson family over the loss of their daughter. Her parents — who wanted to be a part of her life and decisions — needlessly lost a daughter and grandchild, while Planned Parenthood pockets the fee."

A spokesman for the FDA says the agency is looking into Patterson’s death.

Meanwhile, a California law that went into effect in January makes the state the second in the nation to allow non-doctors, such as registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nurse midwifes, to administer the mifepristone abortion drug, under supervision of a physician.

Erin Brooks, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, said she did not know whether a physician or a nurse dispensed mifepristone to Patterson, but claimed it follows the law.

Jan Carroll of the California Pro-Life Council says Patterson’s death shows the law is too lax.

"We’re sorry our prediction seems to be coming true," Carroll said. "Taking RU-486 is not like taking aspirin. It is particularly important that a physician be involved to determine if a woman can take the drug."

Monty Patterson, Holly’s father, agreed, saying, "The medical community treats this as a simple pill you take, as if you’re getting rid of a headache. The procedure, the follow-ups, it’s all too lackadaisical. The girl gets a pill. Then she’s sent home to do the rest on her own. There are just too many things that can go wrong."

Pro-life lawmakers have tried to narrow the scope of who can administer the abortion drug.

A bill introduced by pro-life Rep. David Vitter (R-LA) in Congress in January would bar anyone except a licensed physician from giving the drug. The attending physician must be qualified to perform surgical abortions and have admitting privileges at a hospital within an hour’s drive from the patient. While the bill wouldn’t take the drug off the market, it would at least limit its use and protect women.

In the RU 486 abortion process, mifepristone causes the lining of the uterus to break up and essentially starves the unborn child, and misoprostol induces a miscarriage that delivers the dead baby.

About 225,000 American women have taken mifepristone since the Food and Drug Administration approved it in September 2000.

Since RU-486 received U.S. approval, Danco has reported 400 complications.

These include one woman who died from an ectopic pregnancy, another who suffered a heart attack, and two 15-year-olds who contracted life-threatening infections. A Canadian woman died from a bacterial infection.