New safety warnings added to "abortion pill"

"New warnings will be added to an abortion pill implicated in the death of an 18-year-old California woman last fall, linking Mifeprex to the risk of serious bacterial infection. Holly Patterson died Sept. 17, 2003, of septic shock caused by inflammation of the uterus. She died weeks after taking Mifeprex to terminate an unplanned pregnancy.

Mifeprex is the brand name of mifepristone, also called RU-486, sold in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Mifeprex in 2000 to terminate pregnancy up to 49 days after the beginning of the last menstrual cycle. The drug blocks progesterone, a hormone required to sustain a pregnancy. When followed by another medicine, misoprostol, Mifeprex terminates the pregnancy.

Anti-abortion activists seized upon Patterson's death in their campaign against these pills. Mifeprex already carries a black box warning, the agency's most strident alert, to highlight other safety concerns."

Bear in mind that the number of maternal deaths which occur still FAR outweigh those of medical abortion (via Mifeprex) or surgical abortion, at around 8 deaths per 100,000 birhs, per the CDC. Yet, we don't hear anyone calling for a ban on pregnancy.

Legal abortion of any type is indeed safer than childbirth, but it is IMPERATIVE that with any type of abortion, one does follow the safety standards and aftercare directions.

Following any type of abortion, a patient should ALWAYS have a follow-up visit with their clinic or GYN a week or so after the procedure, and should any unusual symptoms occur after a procedure -- such as extended nausea or bleeding, symptoms of vaginal infection, fever or extensive or extended abdominal pain -- those should be reported to a doctor ASAP (and a person having an abortion is usually required to sign a waiver promising they will do so). As well, a family member, adult guardian or trusted and able friend should always be informed about the abortion to keep an eye on the patient's health for at least the first few days after the procedure.

Sadly, those symptoms often are NOT reported because of a person wishing to keep an abortion a secret because of the shame and judgment often put upon people for aborting. Staph infections like Ms. Patterson's tend not to be sudden, and likely she did experience symptoms like fever well before it became critical. So, rather than looking to blame legal, safe abortion procedures for deaths or extreme illness, perhaps our culture should instead stop making people feel ashamed for having them in the first place, and help pregnant people to truly have the safest abortions they can, including nonjudgmental support when they do have them to help avoid tragic scenarios like this.