Both parties agree that the next frontier in the fight against abortion is the abortion pill, also known as RU-486 or chemical abortion. Pills are becoming less regulated and easier to find. And, more women are using them. They accounted for 54% of all abortions in the United States in 2020, up from 39% in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
This is why abortion activists aggressively promote the pills. A new term is “self-directed abortion” which involves encouraging women to take the pills at home.
“We see these articles popping up again and again about how to do abortions yourself,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “These are dangerous.”
They are also easy to buy. Last month in Wyoming, Hawkins said she ordered them online within minutes. This is partly thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which recently lifted the requirement for an in-person examination.
“It’s presented as if it’s just taking a pill. It’s okay,” said Toni McFadden, a pro-life activist who took the pills in high school. She said her provider minimized the risks and initially she didn’t experience any symptoms other than spotting.
“But then, over a month, almost two months later, while I was in school, I started feeling excruciating pain all over my body,” she said. McFadden started bleeding badly but went home and kept it a secret.
“You can only imagine how traumatic it would be for a teenage girl to live on her own,” she told CBN News. “I just wasn’t educated. I just didn’t know. I didn’t know the term hemorrhage at the time.”
Today, she shares her story and warns young women of the risks.
FDA reports show that abortion pills have resulted in the death of 24 women and serious reactions in more than 4,000. These numbers are likely low because when complications arise, abortion providers urge women to present them as miscarriages in an emergency setting.
Additionally, the CDC does not require abortion reporting, so several states do not share their numbers.
“We need a national reporting law,” says Hawkins. “We don’t have good abortion statistics, especially when it comes to abortion complications.”
For now, strategists like Sue Liebel, director of state policy for the Susan B. Anthony List, are working with states to impose drug restrictions. More than 20 states require a doctor to be present in the room when a woman receives the pills.
“You can’t make them illegal per se, because it’s a federal FDA-approved pharmaceutical. So that’s the irony and that’s the catch,” Liebel says.
Legal experts on both sides expect friction to be the new focus of state legislation and litigation.
Steve Aden, general counsel for Americans United for Life, says there is precedent for restricting pills.
“The abortion industry argues that the FDA has tied the hands of the state,” he told CBN News. “But the fact is that the case law in this area already strongly suggests that states will have the power to regulate…and even prohibit.”
Both sides are gearing up for a fight that encompasses the law, health and safety regulations, internet commerce, and what our culture says about unborn life.
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