Why Do We Need Fully Informed Consent for Painkillers But Not Abortion Drugs?

Opinion   |   Kristi Stone Hamrick   |   Jul 20, 2021   |   6:45PM   |   Washington, DC

In an epic fall over my dog—who is fine by the way—I dislocated my shoulder and tore three ligaments. The word “painful” doesn’t begin to describe the experience. However, the number one topic of my conversations with medical professionals wasn’t my recovery, but the risks of pain relievers. Before shoulder surgery to reconstruct all the displaced pieces, the doctor first walked me through the repercussions of pain pills, and I was requested to take none for two days prior to the procedure. Now, weeks into my recovery, the number one discussion topic is still the risk of getting addicted to pain relievers.

The possible repercussions of these pills are of paramount importance to doctors and government regulators. And that is true of many other drugs—two of my children took the acne drug Accutane, and were required to take a test each month to ensure the medication would not cause birth defects. But the medical community’s safety concerns end when it comes to pills that cause abortion. When ending a preborn life, no harm that can come to women seems sufficient to halt the distribution of deadly drugs or even merit a frank conversation.

On the same day the FDA announced it would pull a COVID-19 vaccine from the market because six people experienced blood clots and one died after taking it, we learned that chemical abortion pills were to be deregulated, despite the fact that more than 20 women have died taking them and thousands more have experienced adverse side effects.

The FDA now allows doctors to prescribe chemical abortion pills without first screening for potential complications. Such pre-screening with an ultrasound is necessary for several reasons. First, pills don’t end an ectopic pregnancy in a woman’s fallopian tube, and women have died because their pregnancies continued after they took the pills, leading to internal bleeding. An ultrasound can also determine the age of the preborn child, which is important since research shows women are often inaccurate in determining how far they are into pregnancy. Chemical abortion pills are dangerous later in pregnancy, and can put a woman at risk of an incomplete abortion, infection or even death.

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The pills cause complications four times as often as surgical abortion. And according to a medical journal report in Medscape General Medicine,”the risk of death appears to be 10 times greater with medical abortion than with surgical abortion.” One report found that more than 5 percent of women taking chemical abortion pills in their first trimester were admitted to the emergency room, and even higher rates of complications came with second-trimester chemical abortion.

In addition, without screening for blood type before an abortion, a woman can also lose her ability to have future children. Fifteen percent of the population has an Rh-negative blood type, and without receiving preventative shots, women with that blood type will build antibodies that attack future children when blood mixes, such as in miscarriage, birth or abortion. Women will only know whether a chemical abortion will build those antibodies if they are screened beforehand.

We also know that abusive men have gotten hold of abortion drugs to cover their crimes or end the lives of children without their mothers’ consent. In-person dispensing can help ensure that a woman is not being victimized or coerced.

All of these facts, in addition to many women’s personal stories, are featured in a new docuseries that Students for Life and Heartbeat International produced along with former vice president Mike Pence‘s daughter, Charlotte. Medical doctors and experts detail what happens when women are subjected to these drugs. This series is being circulated to Congress as well as to state legislators, to grow the list of states where SFLAction worked to stop dangerous, online distribution of the pills this session.

The U.S. is at a crossroads in its handling of chemical abortion pills. Abortion advocates push to deregulate the drugs, using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse. FDA statements indicate that the agency might throw out the health and safety standards permanently this year.

Even if you support abortion, what’s the argument for making women less safe? A quick, online sale benefits abortionists, not women. The medical profession does not apologize for the inconvenience of pain, delays, screening or blood tests conducted in the name of safety—unless we are talking about abortion.

The hypocrisy of deregulating chemical abortion pills when other drugs are closely controlled is all the more galling because lives are at stake. Congress must call on the FDA to put patient safety before corporate convenience.

Abortion does not deserve a get-out-of-regulation-free card.

LifeNews Note: Kristi Stone Hamrick is Chief Media and Policy Strategist for Students for Life of America and Students for Life Action.