House Takes an Interest in the RU-486 Poison Pill

Steven Mosher
PRI Weekly Briefing
22 December 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 50
Reproduced with Permission

RU-486 has been killing mothers as well as children, and Congressman Mark Souder (R.-Ind.) hopes to get to the bottom of what the FDA is doing about it. A House subcommittee he chairs has begun a major investigation into the safety of RU-486 (mifepristone), the use of which has so far killed at least four American women since the FDA approved it in 2000. Mifepristone (sold under the brand name Mifeprex) induces abortion medically, and is used as an alternative to surgical abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.

A December 21 letter to FDA Acting Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach contains a detailed list of questions regarding the FDA's own investigations into RU-486's safety record (see PRI's website for the letter and more information). The letter seeks physician, autopsy, and other records so that the subcommittee can conduct its own review, and asks about the off-label regimens often used with mifepristone (off-label uses are legal but not approved by the FDA). Souder also wants to know why it took so long for the drug's maker, Danco Laboratories, to add the risk of bacterial infection to the drug's warning label. All four American women who died from taking RU-486 had dangerous bacterial infections. Souder chairs the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources of the U.S. House's Committee on Government Reform.

The investigation comes soon after the New England Journal of Medicine published an article suggesting that RU-486 abortions may be ten times more likely to cause the death of the mother than surgical abortions performed at the same point in pregnancy (see PRI's Weekly Briefing, Dec. 2, 2005, "Time for a RU-486 Rollback").

We think it's past time that RU-486 received more scrutiny since it's a drug that not only kills unborn children, but sometimes their mothers as well. Because of America's lax medical reporting system, no one knows how many women may have died after taking RU-486. As we wrote on December 2, 'The FDA under the Clinton Administration officially rushed the approval of RU-486 under expedited procedures normally reserved for drugs needed to save people's lives. Women have been paying with their health and even their lives since.'"

This drug was rushed to market by the FDA, and it turns out that a major study published in one of the world's most prestigious science journals presents data showing that the drug is ten times more likely to be deadly for women than surgical abortion. If feminist groups that supposedly exist to protect women's rights cared, they and their legions of media allies would be screaming up and down about this scandal. After all, surgical abortion-on-demand is widely available, cheap, and relatively safe for the aborting mother, so why do feminists cling to the dangerous RU-486?

Their dedication to RU-486 is further proof that they don't care about women, but about abortion -- anywhere, any time, for any reason, by any means possible. Not only can they not accept that artificially ending a pregnancy accepted by a woman's body is obviously unnatural and unhealthy for that woman, they cannot accept the questioning of medical means to achieve that pregnancy termination. Just as they fanatically defend puncturing the skulls and vacuuming out the brains of almost-born nine-month-old children who could simply be delivered immediately instead, they stand by the killer drug.

The four American women who died from RU-486 suffered from gruesome infections. "[E]ach of the four women who died from septic shock were infected by Clostridium sordellii, a potent anaerobic bacteria," Souder wrote in his letter. "It is also known that a Canadian woman died from septic shock linked to C. sordellii after taking RU-486. These women did not possess other risk factors or underlying medical conditions that would have predisposed them to sepsis. In general, they were young and healthy."

Unfortunately, it's hard to detect these infections because the symptoms mimic those caused by medical abortion (a medical abortion is one induced by drugs rather than surgery). "[A]lthough these women complained of weakness, nausea and vomiting, these symptoms are consistent with the medical abortion procedure, and they had no fever to indicate an infection," Souder noted. "Nevertheless, each woman died soon after being hospitalized."

Souder asked that the FDA respond to his questions by February 6. Then there should be congressional hearings. Then RU-486 should be aborted.