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In December, the FDA loosened restrictions on abortion pills, allowing doctors to prescribe them by telemedicine and customers to receive them by mail at home.  Previously, abortion pills had to be dispensed in person.  In 2016, when Robert Califf was commissioner, the FDA limited the reporting of adverse reactions to abortion pills to just fatalities, hiding the number of other severe and life-threatening events.  Califf has been renominated to head the FDA again.  It appears he will be confirmed, despite the opposition of some Senate Democrats.

Thus, in all likelihood, abortion pills will remain freely available.  But what do we know about them and what happens if Roe v. Wade is overturned?

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First, we know it’s a bigger subject than commonly understood.  More than half of abortions at nine weeks of pregnancy or earlier are done with drugs – “chemical abortions”, they’re called.  More abortion pill clinics popped up last year to help women kill their babies by popping pills, bringing the total to 272 clinics.  Planned Parenthood owns almost 80 percent of them.  Thus, the trend is toward more first trimester and chemical abortions and away from riskier second trimester surgical abortions.  The price of chemical abortion has gone down because telemedicine is less rigorous and pill clinics are cheaper to operate than surgical clinics.  But prices are up in California where, critics say, Planned Parenthood has a nice racket going by charging women a small amount and later gouging the government.

Because abortion pills are four times more likely to result in complications than surgical abortions, critics say it is foreseeable the number of women going to the emergency room will rise.  The failure rate on these drugs – one to shut down the baby’s life support system and a second to induce contractions – is 2-7 percent.  Some women need surgery a week later to expel the remains because the abortion pills didn’t work.  The abortion industry now admits this could be 5 percent of women – 1 in 20.  Not sure I like those odds.

Even if the drugs work as advertised, women can look forward to hours of agony, massive bleeding and gut-wrenching cramps – and you don’t know when the process is done.  Also, what will you do with the baby afterwards?  Flush it down the toilet?  Bury it in the backyard next to Fido?  Don’t bother reporting complications to the FDA; they’re not interested unless you die.  But in 2011, numerous hospitalizations, blood loss requiring transfusions, and severe infections were reported in addition to deaths, from abortion pills.  Abortion pills were linked to 24 deaths and 4,000 serious complications between the year 2000 and 2018.  Especially serious are cases where women think what they are experiencing is from abortion pills when, in fact, they have an ectopic pregnancy where the embryo is growing outside the womb.  Abortion pills don’t terminate ectopic pregnancies and it’s serious when you don’t realize you still have one.

It’s not clear what will happen If Roe v. Wade is overturned.  Democrats could pack the Supreme Court to restore it.  Or they could pass a federal law allowing abortion in every state.  Or, as reported today, they could open abortion clinics on federal land, arguably putting them beyond the reach of state law.

The effect on abortion pills is equally unclear.  If the Supreme Court terminates a federal right to abortion and Congress does not replace it, states could pass laws requiring in-person exams and preventing abortion pills from being shipped to addresses inside their borders.  At least lawmakers in Georgia think so, where such a measure just passed out of one senate committee and is headed to another.  But a federal judge just temporarily blocked a rule requiring in-person exams in South Dakota.

Stay tuned; this story is just beginning.

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