On January 5, 2009, the New York Times carried an article ("For Privacy's Sake, Taking Risks to End Pregnancy" by Jennifer R. Lee and Cara Buckley) describing the fact that many Dominican women in New York City are aborting using the anti-ulcer drug, misoprostol (Cytotec). Misoprostol is also the second drug in the FDA-approved abortion regimen of mifepristone (RU-486 or Mifeprex) and misoprostol. Using misoprostol alone is a practice that is widely found in Latin American nations because misoprostol is cheap and available in pharmacies while mifepristone is either expensive, restricted in distribution, or both. (From some quick web research: RU-486 does not appear to be approved in many Latin American nations; it isn't even approved in Canada.)
Access to RU-486 is tightly controlled in the United States, but misoprostol is sold in drug stores as an anti-ulcer medication for people who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). In New York City "women can obtain the pills either through pharmacies that are willing to bend the rules and provide the medicine without a prescription or by having the drugs shipped from overseas."
The RU-486 regimen was developed so that mifepristone could chemically end the pregnancy's development while relying on misoprostol to then bring about the violent uterine contractions needed to expel the "products of conception." With misoprostol-only abortions the mifepristone-related chemical action does not occur, and abortions, like those reported in the article, depend primarily on termination based on contractions and expulsion. Because of the dual action, RU-486 abortions are more effective than misoprostol-only abortions, but even they fail 3-5% of the time.
To their credit, Lee and Buckley do note that misoprostol abortions have "side effects" that "can be serious, and include rupture of the uterus, severe bleeding and shock." The article also quotes a doctor who has studied misoprostol abortions in New York City where "he saw a lot of Dominican immigrants with incomplete abortions in the emergency room."
Of course, this is the pattern that we at FRC, along with doctors from the American Association of Pro Life Ob/Gyns ("AAPLOG"), have observed. We analyzed RU-486 adverse event reports obtained from the FDA via the Freedom of Information Act. Many chemical abortions do not complete themselves and women are forced to seek out emergency room care while they are tremendously sick. Blood loss can be significant sometimes requiring transfusions.
Instead of portraying these abortions as events that end the life of a human being while abusing the bodies of the women who have them, chemical abortions are portrayed in a benign light in the article. But the reality is much different.
For more on RU-486 abortions and the drug's U.S. approval, download Politicized Science: The Manipulated Approval of RU-486 and Its Dangers to Women's Health.