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International Telemed Abortions Used to Circumvent Pro-life Laws

A pro-abortion website is targeting women in pro-life countries like Poland, Ireland, Malta and others for distribution of the abortion drug, RU-486. The goal of this website is to undermine pro-life laws and to reduce maternal mortality due to “unsafe abortions.”[1]

Womenonweb.org directs women through an online questionnaire, where they answer questions about gestational age etc. Then this organization will ship abortion drugs to the women in these pro-life countries, where the woman will take the drugs at home. The physician disseminating the drug does not physically examine the woman before sending her the drug, nor is he/she available should complications arise. 

Whatever the goal of this site may be, distributing abortion drugs to women – especially if they have not been physically examined by the physician – is “unsafe.” The protocol for distribution of RU-486 as prescribed by the manufacturer, Danco Laboratories, requires that physicians supervise the administration of the abortion drug in order to assess potential complications and to intervene surgically if necessary. The prescriber’s agreement indicates that a physician must have the:

• Ability to assess the duration of pregnancy accurately.

• Ability to diagnose ectopic pregnancies.                 

• Ability to provide surgical intervention in cases of incomplete abortion or severe bleeding, or have made plans to provide such care through others, and are able to assure patient access to medical facilities equipped to provide blood transfusions and resuscitation, if necessary.[2]

A physician in another country assessing an online survey does not have the ability to make these determinations/ interventions. It is absolutely “unsafe” to distribute the abortion drug in this manner. 

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for serious complications – requiring surgical intervention – to occur for women who attain the abortion pills online. A study conducted from April to December 2006, and published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 13.6 %[3] of women who used the abortion pill at home reported being admitted to the hospital to undergo suction/ curettage abortion for incomplete abortion or excessive bleeding. This study provides clear evidence that serious complications are common among women who use this drug.

Additionally, the basic premise that abortion is necessary to reduce maternal mortality rates is false. In fact, pro-life Ireland has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world, at 3 women per every 100,000 live births.[4] Poland and Malta also have very low maternal mortality rates at 6 and 8 women per every 100,000 live births, respectively. [5] Contrast these numbers with the maternal mortality in the United States where abortion is legal through all 9 months of pregnancy; 24 women per every 100,000 live births.[6] The fact that pro-life counties have lower maternal mortality rates than other developed countries shows that abortion is not necessary in order to preserve maternal health.

Moreover, a 14 year study on Finnish women found that pregnancy is a healthy condition. The study found that, “women who underwent an induced abortion had a pregnancy-associated mortality rate from natural causes that was one third higher than that of women who had given birth.”[7] This study shows that abortion has a negative effect on maternal mortality rates. 

Womenonweb.org is not doing a favor for women by helping them evade pro-life laws. This website is doing women a disservice by endangering their lives.

[1] http://www.womenonweb.org/

[2] Prescribers Agreement, available at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm111364.pdf

[3] R. J. Gomperts, et al., BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology: Using telemedicine for termination of pregnancy with mifepristone and misoprostol in settings where there is no access to safe services, 115: 1171–1178 (2008), available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2008.01787.x/pdf

[4] World Health Organization, Cause-specific mortality and morbidity, Maternal mortality ratio, available at http://apps.who.int/ghodata/

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Mika Gissler et al., American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Pregnancy-associated mortality after birth, spontaneous abortion, or induced abortion in Finland, 1987-2000, 190, 422-427 (2004), available at http://www.vozvictimas.org/pdf/documentos/gissler2004.pdf