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Basic facts about pregnancy & abortion

Developments with the RU-486
abortion pill
during 1999 & now

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  • "If you outlawed RU-486 today and took it off the market, it would be a great thing but I'm not certain that it would stop one abortion," Mark Crutcher, of Life Dynamics.
  • "Today members seek to restrict use of mifepristone. Tomorrow it will be the birth control pill. Enough is enough.'' Jatrice Martel-Gaiter, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington

Developments during 2001:

  • 2001-JAN-19: USA: RU-486 may be withdrawn: Tommy Thompson said that if he is affirmed as health and human services secretary, that he will review the 2000-SEP decision by the FDA to permit the sale of RU-486. He cited safety concerns. He did attain the post, but apparently has not limited RU-486
  • 2001-FEB-6: USA: New legislation to further restrict RU-486: Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) and Representative David Vitter (R-LA) introduced bills which would require physicians to meet new standards before they would be allowed to prescribe RU-486. They would have to be legally authorized to perform surgical abortions and handle any complications. They would also have to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Under current regulations, they only had to have a linkage to a physician who could perform abortions. Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation commented: "Claims that this legislation is motivated by a concern for women's health are at best disingenuous, and at worst dishonest." Jatrice Martel-Gaiter, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington said: "Today members seek to restrict use of mifepristone. Tomorrow it will be the birth control pill. Enough is enough.'' 1,2
  • 2001-JUL-12: USA: RU486 lawsuits encouraged: is encouraging women to sue if they feel that they have  "suffered physical injury or emotional harm from the use of the drug mifepristone." They recommend that women contact the American Rights Coalition, Legal Action for Women or Life Dynamics, Inc. 3
  • 2001-AUG-10: USA: Ohio Rep. wants to make RU-486 more difficult to get: Representative Tom Brinkman (R-OH) plans to introduce a bill to require women to first get the approval of a psychiatrist before receiving RU-486. He calls RU-486 treatment "a traumatic experience,'' that necessitates prior approval by a mental health professional. Elizabeth Cavendish, legal director for the National Abortion Rights Action League states that the bill "seems very condescending to women and women's assumes the existence of post-abortion trauma syndrome that doesn't actually exist...Medical literature shows that women who were depressed following an abortion probably were depressed before the abortion.'' 4
  • 2001-SEP-24: USA: Over 5,000 women received RU-486 from Planned Parenthood: One year after RU-486 was approved for use in the U.S., and nine months after it first became available, Planned Parenthood announced that over 5,000 American women have used this method of abortion. They report that the medication worked in more than 99% of the cases. Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) said: "We are particularly pleased by the high levels of success and satisfaction among patients and providers. Reports from across the country have been very positive and reinforce our commitment to bring this new option to more women."
  • 2001-SEP-28: USA: RU-486 has not made abortions more common: A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6% of gynecologists and 1% of GPs have prescribed the drug to date. An additional 16% of gynecologists and 7% percent of GPs said they were likely to prescribe it in the next year. Response to RU-486 in Iowa has been mixed:
    • Kim Gordon, spokesperson of the Iowa Right to Life Committee, believes that few women have used it because they have heard that the medication can cause deadly complications. She said: "If the doctors are not prescribing it, they must be aware of the dangers." She expects that RU-486 will eventually be banned. She said: "I don't think Americans are going to tolerate women dropping off like flies."
    • Penny Dickey, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa said that they have not heard of any severe complications in the state. In a few cases, women had to have a follow-up surgical abortion, either to stop excessive bleeding or because RU-496 did not work as expected. She said that about 9% of the 1,840 women who had abortions in Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa in the first half of 2001 chose RU-486. She felt that the medication did not increase the total number of abortions. 5,6

Developments during 2002:

  • 2002-JAN-15: Lawsuit against National Abortion Federation dropped: A group of plaintiffs, described as "some everyday folk," by the Fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family, had initiated a lawsuit against the National Abortion Federation. The plaintiffs claimed that the Federation had violated the state's Deceptive Trade Practices Act in Illinois when they took out ads in women's magazines which stated that RU-486 was safe. Carrie Gordon Earll, bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family, said that the pill's producer continues to lie: "...women are being sold RU-486 as being safe." Focus on the Family correspondent Charles R. MiVille wrote: "The truth is, RU-486 is potentially very dangerous for the mother, and is always deadly for the unborn child. Side effects include possible bleeding, nausea and painful cramps." 7
  • 2002-AUG-21: Petition to stop sales of RU-486: Three pro-life groups, Concerned Women for America, the Christian Medical Association, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to take RU-486 off the market immediately. They say that the pill is jeopardizing women's lives. They seem to have based their conclusions on an earlier Food and Drug Administration report. The groups cited two deaths and four serious side effects among women taking the pill. 8

Developments during 2003 to 2007:

RU-486 became a frequently used alternative to surgical abortions for pregnancies less than 50 days duration. Although the very rare deaths of women who took the drug have been heavily publicized, the death rate appears to be similar to that caused by surgical abortion and is much less than the death rate caused by continued pregnancy and childbirth.

The FDA has circulated updated reports on the drug as more information became available.

AA summary for providers in mid 2005 published by Danco Laboratories -- producer of the drug-- is online. It :

  • Recommends that women be informed about the possibility of symptoms requiring medical attention.
  • Recommends that patients should take their medication guide with them if they visit a health care provider other than the one who prescribed Mifeprex.
  • Discusses the results of the French and U.S. clinical trials of RU-486. They found that the drug produced a complete medical abortion in 95.5 % of the French trials, and 92.1% of the American trials.
  • Lists contraindications to the use of RU-486 such as a suspected ectopic pregnancy, an IUD in place, and lack of access to medical care in the event of an emergency.
  • Stresses the importance of a followup visit about two weeks after taking Mifeprex to confirm that the pregnancy is completely terminated.
  • Reported that 620,000 women in Europe who had taken Mifepristone. In some cases, the drug did not produce an abortion. 26 women were known to have continued their pregnancies that produced a live birth. No abnormalities were found in any of the babies. 9

Developments during 2008:

  • 2008-JUL-11: World: Internet web site sells do-it-yourself abortion kits: A multi-lingual web site sells the drugs mifespristone and misoprostol to women who live in countries where abortions are not readily available -- including Ireland. They only sell drugs to women who declare that they are less than 9 weeks pregnant, who first answer a series of 25 questions, and can meet the minimum 55 cost (equivalent to about US $109).

    The director of the Family Planning Association in Northern Ireland, Audrey Simpson, said:
    "The Women On Web site is very helpful and reputable. But for Northern Ireland women, it is encouraging them to break the law - and as an organization, we have to work within the law. We're really concerned about women accessing the rogue sites - we're hearing about it and we know it's happening. There are potentially serious medical complications for women from sites which aren't well managed and this could be the new era of backstreet abortions."

    The drug is not safe to use in the absence of access to medical care. However, in many countries, a woman's only other option to terminate a pregnancy is to find a back-alley butcher. 10

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Adam Entous, "Republicans launch new attack on abortion pill," Yahoo! News/Reuters, 2001-FEB-6 at:
  2. "GOP lawmakers back limits on RU-486," Yahoo! News/Associated Press, 2001-FEB-6 at:
  3. "Problems after RU-486?," at:
  4. John McCarthy, "Bill would add step to get abortion pill," Associated Press, 2001-AUG-10, at:
  5. "Planned Parenthood reports widespread satisfaction among patients and providers," Yahoo! Politics, 2001-SEP-24, at:
  6. Tony Leys, "Abortion numbers steady," Des Moines Register, at:
  7. Charles MiVille, "RU-486 Suit Dropped," Focus on the Family, at:
  8. "Washington in Brief: Groups urge abortion pill withdrawn," Washington Post, 2002-AUG-22, at: h
  9. MIFEOREX Tablets..."Danco Laboratories, 2005-JUL-19, at:
  10. "Women performing DIY abortions with 55 medication bought over the internet," Daily Mail )UK), 2008-JUL-11, at:

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Copyright 2001 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-JUL-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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