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Hold FDA accountable for placing abortion advocacy above women’s health


I’ll never forget the day that I spoke to Monty, the father of a young woman, Holly, who had died as the result of chemical abortion at the age of 18. She had graduated from high school a few months earlier and went to a local Planned Parenthood for the abortion drugs. 

She died of septic shock a few weeks later. 

Monty, a man who identified as being ‘pro-choice,’ told me that he wanted to do everything possible to teach people about the dangers of chemical abortion.

The sad reality is that chemical abortions – or abortion drugs – are much harder on women’s health and present many health complications. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration’s label for abortion drugs warns that roughly one in 25 women taking the drugs will end up in the emergency room.

Soon oral arguments will happen at the Supreme Court in the case FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, in which the court will examine whether the Food and Drug Administration has failed to do the very job it was created for, to protect the public’s health by ensuring the safety and efficacy of drugs. 

I would argue that the FDA is doing a profound disservice to women and girls everywhere in the name of abortion.

In 2000, when the FDA first approved the use of abortion drugs – the combined regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol – to terminate a pregnancy, they instituted safety standards in light of inherent risks associated with chemical abortions. 

It was required that women be seen by a doctor when taking abortion drugs and that they be seen prior to and cared for during the process. This was crucial to protect the safety of the woman taking these drugs. 

Additionally, prescribers were required to report all serious complications (adverse events) that arose to the FDA, which were then made public through a website.

Inexplicably, in 2016, the FDA removed most of these safety standards, reducing the number of in-person doctor visits for a woman seeking a chemical abortion from three to one, removing all prescriber reporting requirements except in the case of death, and extending the period of time in which it is ‘safe’ for a woman to take the drug from seven to 10 weeks, putting women and young girls at greater risk.

Even worse, in 2021, the FDA completely eliminated the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone, allowing the drug to be obtained through the mail without ever seeing a medical professional in-person.

Abortion drugs distributed via mail, over state lines and across borders, have created additional hazards for women seeking them. Effectively, all meaningful safety measures were eliminated, leaving women in grave risk of complications.

For example, consider that without having an in-person doctor visit, a woman will not confirm the true gestational age of her unborn child or whether she has a dangerous ectopic pregnancy. 

If a woman were to have an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy and then take the abortion drugs, she will very likely face extreme health complications or even loss of life because the typical adverse reactions to abortion drugs resemble those of a life-threatening ruptured ectopic pregnancy.

According to the FDA’s limited data collection, since the drug was approved in 2000, 4,218 women experienced adverse effects of the drug, 1,049 were hospitalized, 604 experienced severe blood loss, and 418 have had infections.

Tragically, as many as 32 women that we know of have died after such complications from the abortion drug. 

Alyona Dixon tragically lost her life after taking the abortion drugs. She contracted sepsis after the abortion. The infection was left undiagnosed and ultimately took her life. Her husband lost his wife and her son lost his mother. This likely would have been prevented – her life likely would have been saved – if appropriate safety regulations were in place.

Abortion drugs also often carry a heartbreakingly heftier emotional toll, as the woman becomes the abortionist, ingesting the pills, and often tragically sees her baby pass. The sad reality is that many women face mental health repercussions in the months and years after an abortion. 

Numerous studies have shown that women who have abortions show higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse. My heart breaks for any woman who goes through this scenario. At the March for Life, we try to always emphasize that there can be hope and healing after abortion.

Women and girls deserve so much better than the grave risks they are now exposed to with the negligent elimination of critical FDA safeguards around abortion drugs. They should have access to ongoing in-person care from a licensed doctor when taking these drugs. They deserve protection, care, guidance and, above all else, love and support.

My hope is that the court will hold the FDA accountable for placing abortion advocacy above women’s health and reinstate commonsense standards and protections surrounding the distribution of abortion drugs.

For women like Holly or Alyona, such standards in place could have meant the difference between life or death. Until that happens, we at the March for Life will continue our work so that no woman believes chemical abortion is her only option, and instead knows that the pro-life movement is here to support and protect every woman and every child.

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