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Abortion drug kills at least 22 women in America

24 July 2018

Mifepristone is the first stage of the medical or chemical abortion process.

Complication rates are also high in the UK

At least 22 women in America have died and thousands more have experienced serious complications from taking abortion pills, according to updated guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA updated its guidance on mifepristone (known as Mifeprex or Mifegyne), the first stage of a medical abortion that blocks the progesterone needed for a pregnancy to continue, after receiving "reports of serious adverse events in women" who took it.

Sepsis, shock and suicide

The official website reports: "As of December 31, 2017, there were reports of 22 deaths of women associated with Mifeprex since the product was approved in September 2000, including two cases of ectopic pregnancy resulting in death; and several cases of severe systemic infection (also called sepsis), including some that were fatal."

A more detailed report lists the "adverse events" that occurred among women taking mifepristine to terminate a pregnancy. Women died from a whole range of causes, including haemorrhage, ruptured ectopic pregnancy, toxic shock syndrome, liver failure, sepsis, homicide and suicide. 

Severe complications

In addition to the women who have died, thousands more have suffered severe complications from the abortion drug. Between 2000-2012, there were 2740 cases with any adverse event (an average of 228 per year.) In the last five years, there have been 1445 - or an average 289 per year. This includes 273 hospitalisations, 182 cases of blood loss so severe transfusions were needed, and 103 infections.

As not all women who experience complications will go back to the abortion provider or report the use of the drug to emergency services, the numbers are actually likely to be higher.

What about the UK?

According to the 2017 Abortion statistics, two women died in England and Wales from abortion in the last five years. It is not specified what type of abortion caused the fatalities, but 65% of abortions were medically induced, almost double the proportion ten years ago. The complication rates for medical abortion are also many times higher than for surgical - 221 compared to 79. According to the statistics, complications include haemorrhage, uterine perforation and/or sepsis. 

In the US, the abortion lobby is pushing for easy access to the abortion pill on college campuses and some are even calling for it to be approved for home use. This is already happening in the UK, with Scotland and Wales having licensed the second abortion pill for home use, and aggressive calls for England to follow suit. SPUC Scotland has been challenging the decision via a judicial review, the results of which are expected in the next few weeks. 

Read the blog: Home abortions are dangerous for women - here's 10 reasons why

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