Study: 20 Percent of Women Using Abortion Drug Face Medical Complications

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 1, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Study: 20 Percent of Women Using Abortion Drug Face Medical Complications

by Dr. Randy O’Bannon
November 11, 2009 Note: Randall O’Bannon, Ph.D., is the director of education and research for the National Right to Life Committee.

Planned Parenthood says "Our monitoring shows that mifepristone medication abortion continues to be a safe abortion option." The distributor of Mifeprex (the trade name for RU 486) says that "Mifeprex is 92-95% effective for safely ending early pregnancy."

But a new study from Finland says that 20% of the women using the abortion pill suffer at least one significant complication. Nearly 4% reported two or more complications or "adverse events."

The study, "Immediate Complications After Medical Compared with Surgical Termination of Pregnancy," appeared in the October 2009 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. A team of Finnish Researchers headed by Maarit Niinimi of the Oulu University Hospital looked at all abortions, surgical and chemical, performed up to 63 days after gestation, in Finland between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2006.

To identify and tally the complications, researchers looked at all abortion patient inpatient and outpatient visits occurring within 42 days after the abortion. A national health records system enables researchers to track the medical outcomes with individual patients over time.

Researchers found that 15.6 % percent of those undergoing chemical abortions hemorrhaged, 1.7% encountered infection, and 6.7% had incomplete abortions.

Less than a tenth of 1% of women aborting chemically reported the other adverse events measured by the study – injury, thromboembolic disease (e.g., pulmonary embolism), psychiatric morbidity (e.g., depression, psychoses), or death. But it should be noted that any latent psychological or physical consequences (such as impaired fertility) might not be manifest at 42 days post abortion.

A few things are very much worth noting about the complication rates. The rate of those having "incomplete abortions" and infections increased as the length of gestation increased.

In the U.S., the FDA tried to limit abortions using RU 486 to 49 days gestation. But the industry has been openly performing them up to 63 days gestation and sometimes even later. Most of those in the Finnish study who had incomplete abortions went on to have some sort of what the authors term "surgical (re)evacuation."

Cross referencing demographic data, the Finnish researchers found that the risk of hemorrhage increased among aborting women using RU 486 who were aged 20-24, having had a previous birth, from a lower socio-economic class and living in a densely populated or rural area. Risk factors associated with an incomplete abortion were the same, but also included those having a previous abortion, single, or having an advanced gestation.

In comparison to surgical abortion, the risk of hemorrhage with chemical abortions with RU 486 nearly eight times higher, while the likelihood of an incomplete abortion was five times higher.

It was not that surgical abortion was safe, however.

About 5.5% of Finnish women having surgical abortions reported at least one adverse event. The rate of hemorrhage was significantly lower (2.1%), as was the rate of incomplete abortion (1.6%), but infection rates were about the same (1.7%). As might be expected, injury rates from surgical abortion were about 20 times higher than those found with chemical abortions, though not high as an overall percentage of adverse events (0.6%).

Surprising from these figures is that there were a substantial number of surgical abortions that were somehow "incomplete," with a number of women returning for "surgical (re)evacuations."

This is a much different picture of abortion than one encounters in the United States, where the safety of abortion, chemical or surgical, is regularly touted by the abortion industry and its defenders.

Risks are mentioned, sometimes at the bottom of the page in small print (on the mifepristone web site), or are said to be "rare" (Planned Parenthood), but the overall message of safety and convenience shines through.

Though the authors of the Finnish study label both the chemical and surgical methods of abortion "generally safe," it is clear that complications are more common than many might have been led to believe, and that contrary to expectations that the chemical method was safer and easier, the data clearly show that "medical abortion results in an increased incidence of adverse events."

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