NYT Claims Abortion Drugs ‘Safe’ Despite 1 in 10 Women Experiencing Complications
On July 6, The New York Times (NYT) touted a new study trumpeting the “safety” of drugs that terminate the lives of unborn babies after 10 weeks gestation. But experts are pointing out that the study only confirms what has long been known: that abortion drugs have caused severe health complications in thousands of women, up to and including death.
The article, entitled “Misoprostol Alone Safely Ends Pregnancies After 10 Weeks, Study Suggests,” states that “[a]n overwhelming majority of women were able to end unwanted pregnancies with abortion medications on their own and without additional medical procedures, even if they were well beyond the first trimester” according to a new study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The study was based on 264 women who were nine to 16 weeks pregnant in Argentina, Nigeria, and an “unnamed country in Southeast Asia where abortion is illegal.” The Times noted that “[a]lmost half of the women took only one drug, misoprostol, instead of the standard two-drug regimen, mifepristone and misoprostol. They were nonetheless able to terminate the pregnancies, according to the study.” But buried in the 12th paragraph of the 17-paragraph story, author Roni Caryn Rabin concedes that “[a]bout 90 percent of the women … end[ed their] pregnancies with self-managed medication abortions,” while “[f]ive percent had a procedure to complete the abortion, and 5 percent had an incomplete abortion.”
This 10% failure rate matches what has been found in previous studies and is immensely concerning to medical experts. Data from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows that between 2000 (when abortion drugs were approved by FDA) and 2022, a total of 4,213 adverse events related to chemical abortions were reported, including 28 maternal deaths, 97 ectopic pregnancies, 1,048 hospitalizations, 604 blood loss cases requiring transfusions, and 414 infections (including 71 severe infections). Since most states do not require women to report their medical outcomes after taking abortion drugs, this data is substantially incomplete, with the numbers likely being much higher.
A far more comprehensive study than the one sited by the NYT shows that a more accurate rate of severe complications is likely 20%. A Finnish study of 42,600 women found that out of the 20% of women who experienced serious complications, 15.6% experienced hemorrhaging and 6.7% suffered an incomplete abortion, in which fetal body parts had to be surgically removed.
Dr. Christina Francis, CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) and a board-certified OB/GYN, expressed grave concerns about the study cited by the NYT.
“I spent three years working at a mission hospital in rural Kenya,” she explained during the July 7 edition of “Washington Watch.” “So when I looked at this study, it really hit home with me, because this study was actually part of a larger study that was done in three different countries. One was Nigeria, one was Argentina, and one was a country in East Asia, notably all of whom have laws that restrict abortion or make it illegal. So this was a study being done on an illegal procedure in countries on women that were very vulnerable.”
Francis continued, “What they did was they took women or even girls as young as 13, who called into an abortion advocacy hotline and wanted to self-manage their abortions and then did follow-ups with them via phone at one week and three weeks. … But what [the study] showed was really not what is being reported. … What it showed was that a full 25% of women and girls sought additional medical treatment. Now, they tried to say in the study that that was just because they wanted to know if their abortions had been completed. But when you delve deeper, you actually see that a significant portion of them experienced complications and a significant portion didn’t follow up. So they actually don’t know if those women had major complications or not.”
Francis went on to observe that the women who experienced complications in the study likely did not have access to quality health care in order to receive the treatment they needed.
“From my experience working in Kenya, which I’m sure is not that different from the place where these women were, women did not have access oftentimes to emergency surgical services, to blood transfusions, to life saving treatments,” she pointed out. “We lost women because we didn’t have adequate blood products in our hospital in Kenya sometimes. And so that’s not an uncommon thing to happen. … Ten percent … is a huge number of women to potentially be experiencing complications.”
Francis expressed further ethical concerns about how the study was conducted.
“They paid women up to $25 to participate in the study. In a place like Nigeria, that’s a significant amount of money. So that’s very financially coercive. And they enrolled girls as young as 13. We do not have safety data on these drugs in girls that young. … How does a 13-year-old without parental involvement talking to someone who’s not even a medical professional on the phone receive fully informed consent? And in fact, in the study they state that they obtained verbal consent from all of the participants, but they have no record of that.”
Francis concluded by warning about the dangers to women’s health that can be spread through falsehoods like those in the NYT article and others.
“We’ve already been hearing that if mifepristone doesn’t become unavailable in certain states that they’ll encourage women to do misoprostol alone in abortions, which we know have higher rates of complications even,” she underscored. “So this is not safe. Yet these lies are being told to women.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.