New Details of RU 486 Abortion Deaths Emerge as CDC Investigates

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 15, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Details of RU 486 Abortion Deaths Emerge as CDC Investigates Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 15, 2005

Los Angeles, CA ( — As the Centers for Disease Control investigates why four California women have died after using the abortion drug RU 486, new details are emerging about one woman’s recent death. All of the deaths appear to have involved infections brought on by the mifepristone abortion drug and misuse of the abortion pills by Planned Parenthood.

Oriane Shevin, a 34 year-old woman from Sherman Oaks, in southern California, is the latest to die from using the abortion pills. She passed away June 14 after she took the Mifeprex abortion drug and the misoprostol pill to have an abortion.

Shevin, an attorney and mother of two children, was taken by ambulance to Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center and doctors said she died from sepsis, a blood infection that was also responsible for the September 2003 death of Holly Patterson.

The CDC and state officials are investigating the deaths and trying to determine whether the misuse of the drugs is to blame.

When women use drugs to produce a chemical abortion, they engage in a two part process.

The Mifeprex abortion pill essentially starves the unborn child by denying her the nutrients she normally obtains from the mother’s placenta. A second drug, misoprostol, causes contractions and produces a miscarriage that births the deceased child.

However, misoprostol is not a drug meant to be used in abortions and Searle, the company that produces the ulcer medication, has warned doctors repeatedly not to use the drug in abortions.

Meanwhile, FDA protocols call for using the misoprostol drug orally, like the Mifeprex pill. However, Planned Parenthood officials appear to instruct women to take the misoprostol pill vaginally, as they did with Patterson and Shevin.

Dr. Philip Darney, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of California at San Francisco, told the Los Angeles Times the way the drugs are being administered could be causing problems.

"We think that an explanation … may be the vaginal self-administration of misoprostol under unusual circumstances," he admitted.

The abortion drug is prevalent in Europe and Darney told the Times that a lower dose of Mifeprex is used there and that women do not normally take the misoprostol drug vaginally. He said abortion centers probably instruct women to take the drug vaginally because it slightly increases its effectiveness.

However, health officials in the U.S. will "have to decide if the slight increase in efficacy and convenience of vaginal self-administration is worth the very rare, unusual infection," Darney said.

Family members of those who died have pressed hard for changes in warnings about the deadly effects of the abortion drugs. Monty Patterson, Holly Patterson’s father, has gone so far as to endorse Congressional legislation to pull the drug from the market while its safety is studied. He also wants parents to be told when minors are considering an abortion so they can help their children make more informed decisions.

Lynn Bryant, whose otherwise healthy daughter Chanelle died from the abortion d rug in 2004, said its important for abortion facility staff and personnel at hospitals and medical centers to know of the problems the abortion drugs can cause.

"I’d like people to know that it could be life-threatening, and also for the medical people to be aware of the dangers of the drug when [women] come in for treatment," Bryant told the Los Angeles newspaper.

Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, an epidemiologist with the CDC says he wants to know why California women are the ones dying from the abortion drug. He also wants to know if there are any more women who have died and whose deaths have not yet been reported.

"It may be that we’ve found all there are," McDonald said. "We don’t know…. Until we’ve tried to draw the circle around the true number of cases, we can’t get a sense of what the risk involved is."

The FDA is also consulting with the makers of the two drugs to determine if a supply of the drugs was tainted before being shipped to abortion facilities.