If abortion can be done earlier, it can be done with fewer complications for women. So goes the familiar rationale for Mifeprex (mifepristone), the so-called abortion pill, developed in France by the designation ‘RU-486.’ Yet such early medical abortions are not easy. The pill must be followed up by a prostaglandin (misoprostol) which causes the uterus to contract. The combo of the two drugs causes an abortion in most cases, but may lead to persistent bleeding (over 30 days) in 8% of cases, and requires surgical intervention in 8%.
Of course, abortion is not even legal in some countries, and Mifeprex is expensive. What if pregnant women could just take misoprostol (the prostaglandin) alone? It is is cheap, readily available, and it can often cause an abortion all by itself.
A recent article in the medical journalThe Lancetattempts to study this question (Vol. 369, No. 9577, June 9, 2007). Looking at data from five different countries, misoprostol was effective as the sole agent most of the time. All women were carefully followed by OB-GYN doctors, with follow-up surgical procedures performed where necessary. One Web-based article on the technique states: “In approximately 10% to 35% of cases, aspiration intervention is required.”
So is this a boon for the reproductive rights of poor women? How will this translate into developing countries where medical follow-up is almost nonexistent? Under the guise of ‘easy’ and ‘cheap’ abortions, the many complications from this short-cut technique may never be known. It seems that many women who will die of infection after incomplete induced abortion.
Oh, and by the way, a lot of unborn babies will die as well.