Dangerous chemical abortions are legal, loosely restricted, and widely available at abortion clinics all over the United States. However, that isn’t good enough for some of the world’s most ardent abortion advocates. They want them available in every town, from any sort of vaguely medical establishment, via doctors they only meet on a web-cam, available over the counter at any local pharmacy, and even available for order online or in the mail.
Every one of these methods is already in use, being tested, or being promoted.
The latest twist that has the media all aflutter is a new website by those who brought us the “abortion ship,” country specific ‘abortion-hotlines,” and the online abortion pill selling “I need an abortion” website.
This one, however, is specifically geared towards American women, who, the sponsors say, are finding their “access” to abortion threatened by state abortion limits and a hostile new administration.
Support for Self-Induction
The website, called abortionpillinfo.org, set up by a new group from the Netherlands called Women Help Women, claims not to be trying to sell any abortion pills to American women, but only offers guidance to women to women who want to abort using widely available medications.
The name of their “service” is Self-managed Abortion: Safe and Supported (SASS).
Kinga Jelinska, the executive director for Women Help Women, calls their service “an information-delivery project,” though a disclaimer on the website note that consultation is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice (Washington Post, 4/27/17).
That website identifies Women Help Women as “an international group of activists, trained counselors and non-profit organizations and foundations.” It says “We bridge the gap between reproductive rights advocacy efforts and service provision.”
How it’s supposed to work
Using guidelines from the pro-abortion World Health Organization (WHO), one or more of 23 on-line staffers find out how advanced the woman’s pregnancy is, determine whether she has any conditions that would medically disqualify her, and discuss the doses and administration that are recommended for aborting. She will be given information about what complications to watch for and told to seek medical care if these occur.
Part of Women Help Women’s advice is to tell women that there are no blood or urine tests to distinguish her chemical abortion from a spontaneous miscarriage, so she does not need to share this information with medical staff at the ER. One of the stated aims of the program is to be able to help self-aborting women avoid prosecution.
If for some reason, the women decide they’d prefer a more clinical setting, the counselors direct them to clinics in their area as well as foundations that might help cover costs.
Despite assurances to the press that they do not sell abortion drugs to American women, the Women Help Women website has a link women can click if they want to “get abortion pills.” They do warn that, in the U.S., many states require that abortion pills be dispensed by “licensed health care clinicians” and say that women can be arrested for using pills not coming from a clinician.
Nevertheless, they do give information on dosages for both mifepristone (RU-486) given in combination with misoprostol and for misoprostol (a powerful prostaglandin) alone. Taking things further, they give specific advice on “How can I find abortion pills?” (For example, they helpfully mention that “some internet veterinary supply stores and veterinarians” use misoprostol “to treat ulcers and arthritis in dogs.”)
A web connection many strands
A few other things about the people involved are important to know. Kinga Jalinska was formerly an employee of Women on Web, the website allowing women to order abortion pill, and Women on Waves, perhaps best known for the abortion ship and for abortion hotlines promoting use of misoprostol in countries where abortion is illegal.
Women on Waves is linked as source of additional information on the Women Help Women website, as are well known, long time promoters of the abortion pill Ibis and Gynuity.
One of their “scientific advisors” is Angel Foster, a member of the University of Ottawa health sciences faculty and board member of the National Abortion Federation that just happened to be part of a group of academics pleading for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to further loosen restrictions on mifepristone so it could be sold at local pharmacies (“Activist Abortion Academics Want RU-486 Sold at Your Local Pharmacy,” NRL News Today, 2/24/17).
None of this is surprising. It simply serves the point of making clear that all the efforts to loosen restrictions, develop new delivery methods, challenge the laws of pro-life countries, to downplay safety concerns are all of one piece, originating from the same basic circle of activists, who are coordinating their attacks.
One person the media turned to for comments was University of California – San Francisco abortion researcher Daniel Grossman. Grossman was key in raising the specter of a rise in self-induced abortion from new limits in Texas just two years ago (Texas Policy Evaluation Project, Research Brief, 11/17/15). Grossman tells a Washington Post reporter that the reason he would not advocate women self-aborting right now is not any concern for safety, but the threat of prosecution (Washington Post, 4/27/17).
Elsewhere, Grossman has told the media that “we have few, few concerns about” women using these drugs on their own. He says (particularly about misoprostol) that it is “very safe and effective” that “women can safely use it on their own” if they have “information on how to use it” (The Guardian, 4/27/17).
Grossman is hardly some neutral observer commenting for the news. He was a signatory, along with Angel Foster, with the academics seeking sales of mifepristone at local pharmacies, and has just published a paper in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (March 2017) brazenly titled “A research agenda for moving early medical pregnancy termination over the counter.”
Susan Yanow, one of the consultants to Women Help Women, admitted to Cosmopolitan (4/27/17) that, even with WHO protocols, misoprostol, one of the drugs they are promoting, is only between 80 and 85% “effective.” This would leave an awful lot of women enduring significant pain and bleeding and either not aborting completely or not aborting at all.
When misoprostol began to be sold on the black market in Brazil in the 1990s, there was a sudden rash of births of babies with fused or missing fingers or toes, club feet, partial facial paralysis, etc. They were believed to be associated with use of the drug (The Lancet, May 30, 1998).
Thousands of women legally taking abortion drugs here in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, under full medical supervision have ended up hospitalized. A number of women have bled to death, died from ruptured undetected ectopic pregnancies, or contracted rare but deadly infections.
It is hard to see how such complications would not be multiplied in the absence of direct medical monitoring.
Women Help Women would have people believe this is why they are there–to ensure that women use these drugs correctly and safely. But many of the most serious problems mentioned above happened when women did use the drugs as they were told.
The chemical abortion process is inherently bloody and painful and dangerous. And encouraging women to believe that they can easily, safely manage these nightmares all alone is the height of irresponsibility.