CDC Article on Risks Associated With Abortion Drug Upsets Pro-Lifers

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

CDC Article on Risks Associated With Abortion Drug Upsets Pro-Lifers

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 1, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A new article written by Centers for Disease Control staff about the risks associated with the dangerous abortion drug RU 486 and published today in the New England Journal of Medicine is upsetting pro-life advocates because it plays down the deaths of five women from the drug.

In the article, CDC investigators described the risk of using the abortion drug as "low" and said the fatal infections that developed in the four American and one Canadian women who died were very rare.

All of the women developed a rare bacterial infection called Clostridium sordellii after using the abortion drug and inserting one portion of it vaginally, as instructed by Planned Parenthood even though it’s against FDA protocols.

Yet the CDC officials admitted the infections could result not only after using the abortion drug but with surgical abortions as well.

The article is important because it gives a glimpse about the direction the agency will pursue when it conducts a joint meeting with FDA officials early next year to probe how and why the women contracted the deadly infections from the abortion drug.

Dr. Michael F. Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School who authored an editorial in the NEJM about the CDC article, told HealthDayNews medical authorities are puzzled by the women’s deaths.

"That’s what’s bugging everybody — there’s no obvious pathophysiological link between these medications and this, or any other, infection," he said.

Greene admitted that the drug must somehow play a part because the infections don’t normally occur in a woman’s uterus. To have five such infections within three years and all coming days after the women use the abortion drug is suspicious, he said.

Still, though the deaths of the women were "tragic" Greene insists the drug is safe.

That upsets Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, who says the drug should be pulled form the market immediately, though she doesn’t think that will happen.

"This is creating a health hazard for women," she told HealthDayNews. "The drug’s owner [Danco Laboratories] has only one product, so it has no incentive to pull the drug from the market. That’s why the FDA must act in the best interest of women’s health by pulling this drug from the market."

According to pro-life Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican who has spoken frequently with FDA officials about the drugs, the FDA may pull it from the market if it discovers any more deaths.

Wright took issue with Greene’s editorial saying "it is clearly reflecting an opinion and leaves out key information."

She pointed out that more than 600 women have reported problems associated with the drug to the FDA and she says many more go unreported, possibly including additional deaths that have been labeled as infections rather than from the abortion drug.

The abortion drug has been used by 500,000 women and with five deaths the risk of dying from it is 1 in 100,000. Had all of the abortions since Roe v. Wade been chemical instead of surgical, 450 women would have died since then.

The four California women who died were Holly Patterson, 18, of Livermore; Vivian Tran, 22, of Costa Mesa; Chanelle Bryant, 22, of Pasadena; and Orlane Shevlin, 34, of Los Angeles. The deaths occurred between Sept. 17, 2003, and May 24, 2005.

The families of three of the women who died are suing Danco.

The FDA quickly approved the RU 486 abortion drug in the waning days of the Clinton administration under protocols normally reserved for lifesaving medications.